Felon charged with LEO’s attempted murder received 2018 plea deal after rifle wasn’t seized

Philip Lee shot Officer Seara Burton in the head when she stopped him for suspected drug activity last month


By Amanda Spence

RICHMOND, Ind. — Philip Lee, the man charged with the attempted murder of Richmond Police Department Officer Seara Burton, allegedly evaded a 2018 weapon charge when a rifle wasn’t seized in a critical error, resulting in his early release from prison.

Lee adds another charge to a host of other felonies that have resulted in him being locked up for 22 of the last 28 years. Lee has past charges that include possession of marijuana and cocaine, battery, burglary, auto theft, escape and perjury. Previously, he attempted to run from police, bit them and attempted to steal their service weapons, 13 WTHR reported.

“Officers were aware that Lee claimed he was not going back to jail and would shoot any officer or agent that encountered him,” an affidavit stated when Lee pled guilty to resisting officers in 2017. A year later, Lee was given a plea deal, which had him serve less than four years after investigators didn’t collect critical evidence, a rifle, that was located at the crime scene.

Lee was released in January, but according to the state’s guidelines, he would have likely still been in prison until 2023 had the rifle been located. Several months after his release, Burton stopped Lee for suspected drug activity.

“There’s no forensic analysis done to confirm that Mr. Lee’s fingerprints were on there, any kind of DNA evidence,” Prosecutor Michael Shipman said. “And so we agreed to kind of come to a middle ground here where he would plead to the drug offenses that he did commit and the other offenses would be dismissed for that specific reason.”

Shipman told 13 News the rifle on scene wasn’t collected by law enforcement at the time, which is why it wasn’t tested for Lee’s fingerprints.

“The rifle which supported the charge was not collected by police and placed into evidence storage at RPD [Richmond Police Department],” he explained. “We learned this after Mr. Lee was arrested. We could not prove the Serious Violent Felon count because the rifle was not available to present to a jury. It was important to collect the rifle as evidence so that it could be tested for fingerprints, DNA, etc. Since it was not available, no testing could be done to prove who possessed the rifle.”

Lee’s girlfriend also said the rifle was hers and that multiple people had access to it.

“Due to this lack of evidence and other factors described above, I could not prove the SVF charge beyond a reasonable doubt,” Shipman continued. “I was legally and ethically obligated to dismiss the charge.”

Recommended for you

Copyright © 2022 Police1. All rights reserved.