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Many pay tribute to fallen officer

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Fayette Faces

By Panzi Blackwell

Evan D. Burns grew up in Vandalia. He was a member of the Vandalia Community High School football and basketball teams, and also wrestled before he graduated in 2001.


He went on to attend a prestigious law officer academy and became a police officer in 2007.
He was tragically killed in the line of duty on Aug. 15, leaving behind his very young son, Cade; his brother, Aaron Burns, an officer with the East Alton Police Department, who had talked with Evan on the phone about an hour before his death; his father, Michael; and other family members.
His father, Michael Burns, shared his memories of his late son, and the honors and tributes that have been given to his memory.
The Death of a Hero
Evan’s father shared some of the details of his son’s death.
“I learned of his death when the Caruthersville police contacted the Vandalia Police Department, and they came to my house. They also contacted my son, Aaron,” he said.
“A pursuit by other police departments was in progress of a man suspected of stealing a SUV and trying to burn a house down. The pursuit, which started out of Evan’s venue, was getting closer and closer. Evan knew that a rookie, Officer Altice, he had been training, was on duty, and he wanted to make sure he was OK. He and Altice set up some spikes and positioned their vehicles, leaving a space between their vehicles.
“When the vehicle (being pursued) approached, they believed he was going to surrender. Instead, he hit the other police car first, causing injury to Altice, and then he full-throttled the SUV and ran into Evan’s car, impacting it at 71 miles per hour. It cut Evan’s car in half and killed him instantly.  It was about 1:30 in the morning.”
The Tributes, Honors, and the Memories
“This is a proclamation that Jeremiah W. (Jay) Nixon, the governor of Missouri, sent to me in July,” Burns said.
The proclamation read, in part, “Whereas, Evan D. Burns, of Caruthersville, Mo., graduated from the Southeast Missouri State University Law Enforcement Academy in Cape Gerardo, in November 2007.
“Evan began his career in law enforcement when he became a patrolman for the Brooklyn Police Department in Brooklyn, Ill. He was a police officer for the Caruthersville Police Department, and a firearms instructor and a part-time police officer for the Steele Police Department at the time of his death.
“On Aug.15, 2011, Officer Evan D. Burns, aged 28, was killed in the line of duty while serving the citizens of Caruthersville, and the people of the state of Missouri are thankful for the brave individuals in the law enforcement profession who considered the welfare of others a personal responsibility and worked hard to protect the lives and property of their fellow citizens.
“ Therefore, I Jeremiah W. (Jay) Nixon, governor of the State of Missouri, as a mark of respect for the death of police officer Evan D. Burns, and for his public service to the State of Missouri, do hereby order that the flag of the United States and the flag of Missouri shall be flown at half-staff of all governmental buildings in the county of Perniscot, Mo., for one full day on Aug.20, from sunrise to sunset.”
Burns said that at the time of his death, Evan was involved in getting a fund-raiser together for a 3-year-old girl. Burns received a letter from Brandon Hauner. a fellow officer. He indicated in the letter that they wanted to set up a benefit shoot, with the proceeds to go to Evan’s young son, Cade, who about 18 months old.
He has received several other documents and letters praising his son. A touching poem was written and sent by a person who wanted to remain anonymous. The last verse reads, “Yes, Somebody killed a policeman today, It happened in your hometown and mine; While we slept in comfort behind our locked doors, Evan Burns put his life on the line; Now his ghost walks a beat on a dark city street and he stands at each rookie’s side. He answered the call and gave us his all, and a part of America died.”
A letter of condolence was received from President Barack Obama. “You can tell he really signed it, because the ink bled through the paper,” Burns said, turning the letter over.
He also received a letter of condolence from the Attorney General.
Burns also received a letter from Officer Altice, praising Evan and the example he set for others, and for the way Evan tried to protect him by the placement of his police car.
On his kitchen counter, Burns had several medals laid on his son’s white dress glove, including sharp-shooter medal, firearms instructor and a U.S. Marshall badge.
Burns has received a plaque, a Medal of Honor and an accompanying document certifying the induction of Officer Evan D. Burns into the American Police Hall of Fame, along with the American Flag.
The American Police Hall of Fame is located in Florida. Evan’s name will be etched into the marble halls of the Hall of Fame, along with 8.000 others who gave their lives in the line of duty.
More than 300 hundred law enforcement officers, including  Canadian law enforcement, attended Officer Burns’s funeral, which was held in Vandalia.
The Caruthersville Police Department sent Aaron a large, framed portrait of Evan, which he gave to his father.
“I haven’t come to the point yet where I can walk into the room and see it,” Burns said. “I keep it covered with a blanket.”
Aaron noted that the number on Evans’s cemetery lot is the same number on his badge – 44.
All of the letters, documents and words are comforting and are important to eventual healing for Evan’s father, and his brother, Aaron, with whom he was very close.
They will be important and helpful to Cade as he grows older.
Patting his chest, Burns explained it, “All I’m feeling in my heart is Evan. I’m not even thinking of the man that killed him now. To this day, I haven’t been able to accept it. I expect him to walk through that door.”