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Man charged with killing Indiana police officer dies in prison while awaiting trial

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PENDLETON, Ind. (AP) — A man charged with fatally shooting an Indiana police officer in the head in 2022 died Thursday at a state prison, authorities said.

Phillip Lee, 49, was being held at Pendleton prison while awaiting trial next year on murder and other charges in the death of Richmond Officer Seara Burton. He was found alone in his cell and unresponsive by correctional staff, state police said.

Police did not release details. But Lee’s attorney said he was suffering mental distress and killed himself.

“Phillip had very severe mental health issues. It wasn’t something that developed in the last week or two,” Denise Turner told The Associated Press.

“We had a couple of mental health experts working with Phillip, but they can’t be there 24/7,” Turner said. “The prison was not doing anything to help Phillip.”

Greg Dunn, spokesman at the Indiana Department of Correction, said he could not comment.

Burton, 28, was shot while assisting officers who had stopped Lee on his moped and suspected that he possessed drugs. She died a month later in September 2022. She had been a police officer for four years in Richmond, about 65 miles (105 kilometers) east of Indianapolis.

Turner said Lee lately had expressed remorse.

Richmond police Chief Kyle Weatherly said he talked to Burton’s family about Lee’s death. Mayor Ron Oler wiped tears from his eyes at a news conference.

“Two years ago, a very bad thing happened in our city,” Oler said. “We don’t really have justice, but we have something like closure. Maybe not the outcome the citizens wanted, but at least there is an outcome.”

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EDITOR’S NOTE — This story includes discussion of suicide. If you or someone you know needs help, the national suicide and crisis lifeline in the U.S. is available by calling or texting 988. There is also an online chat at 988lifeline.org

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