Burchfield was killed with a .22 caliber handgun by an unknown man during an armed robbery investigation in the area of 1600 N. Wood Ave. That robbery was part of a pattern that had plagued the area. Burchfield was only 34 years old when he died. He was happily married with three children.
Officer Burchfield was part of a team investigating a series of armed robberies and he had been checking the area for suspects. He radioed to dispatch that he was returning to headquarters around 7:55pm. However, Burchfield never came in.
Shortly after 8:00 p.m., Mr. Robert McVay walked into the police department and told police that he had seen a squad car against the curb near Bijou & El Paso streets, just five blocks away from the police department.
“He saw a man on the outside of the car, stooping down and looking in. He became suspicious when he and his wife saw the man run up the street and enter a car, so McVay drove two blocks north, made a U-turn and went back. The man was still sitting in the car so McVay drove home, then decided to make another trip and drove to the police car and again saw the man looking into the car; McVay stopped and asked ‘Do you need any help?’ to which the man replied ‘Hell no!’ Returning home, McVay tried to call police but the lines were busy, so he drove to the station and reported the incident.”
When officers rushed five blocks down they found one of their own, killed in the driver’s seat of his own squad car. Burchfield had been shot eight times at close range behind the right ear, over the right eye, once in the right cheek, twice in the right shoulder, and three times in the right arm. The shots suggest that he was shot by someone in the passenger seat or from the back seat. I wonder if the autopsy revealed anything about the trajectory of the bullets to get a more precise estimate of the shooter’s position.
Nine shells, (along with the bullets identified by the FBI lab as coming from a Colt Woodsman automatic .22 caliber pistol) were found in the car. If those shells have been preserved, it could not hurt to have them re-examined one more time with modern technology to make sure nothing was missed.
Near his feet, his colleagues found an ID card stolen from Alton Peterson, the most recent Wood Ave robbery victim. Here as well, modern technology should be applied to the card to make sure we did not miss a print or any other residue left on the card. Finding the card at Burchfield’s feet suggested to his colleagues that Burchfield had caught the robbery suspect and that he was probably killed by that suspect. I am wondering whether any prints were found inside the squad car that were not Burchfield’s. I am sure the car was searched and hope the prints were preserved.
Other officers canvasing the area found some witnesses had seen an old model Ford Coupe that stopped near the squad car around the time of the murder. The driver was a white male, tall, thin, and dressed in dark clothes. They were not certain about his age. It could have been late teens or early twenties. Police investigated a few suspects but were never able to solve the case.