Back the Blue remembers officers


By Ryan Berry

GREENVILLE — The annual Back the Blue Memorial Ceremony was held Saturday, May 18 at the Darke County Fairgrounds. The ceremony remembers the officers from across the country who were killed in the line of duty. The names of 131 law enforcement officers and 25 fallen K9s killed in the line of duty were read during a moving part of the ceremony that was followed by Amazing Grace played on bagpipes by Butler County Sheriff’s Deputy Lt. Dennis Adams as the lights from numerous police vehicles filled the Coliseum.

Guest speakers included retired Clearcreek Township Police Officer Eric Ney, Warren County Communications Dispatcher Paige Barton and Richmond Police Officer Ami Miller, stepmother of Seara Burton, the Richmond, Ind. Police officer killed in the line of duty.

On July 12, 2022, Ney and his partner, Sgt. Cordero, were dispatched to a domestic violence call, but he doesn’t remember much from that day. He doesn’t remember being shot and he doesn’t remember much from the three months he was at Miami Valley Hospital.

On the date he was shot, Ney said he was working day shift, but was working a double shift because two of the evening shift officers had SWAT training. He recalled he had been to the location of the domestic call several times before. After meeting with shooter’s wife, Ney and his partner waited for the suspect to come back so they could get a statement. Sgt. Cordero approached him first and handed him the paperwork to fill out. The officers were planning on arresting the suspect for something else. Ney went to assist Sgt. Cordero and as he approached the suspect pulled out a gun and shot him in the face. At the same time Sgt. Cordero went to shoot the suspect, the suspect turned the gun on himself.

“I wasn’t supposed to live,” he said. “But God’s got plans for me.” He said he can no longer see out of his left eye and can’t smell or taste anything. His memory is at 13 percent. “Most likely tomorrow, I won’t remember being here.”

There is only one thing he remembers from his time at Miami Valley Hospital. “From the three months in the hospital, the only memory I have… My wife and kids spent every night with me, all the doctors and nurses, all the visitors I had, I don’t remember nothing at all, except the Lord talking to me. I can’t describe how wonderful it was. He has plans for me, said Ney. “I consider it the best day of my life. People don’t understand that. The experience I had with Him is the best day of my life.”

Barton was on the other end of the tragedy that happened to Officer Ney. She was one of the dispatchers working that day. She shared that Officer Ney and Sgt. Cordero had been on the domestic dispute call for an extended period of time. Domestic dispute calls are a common occurrence in Warren County with over 20,000 calls in 2023. “When you receive these calls so frequently, it becomes repetitive and you almost get complacent,” she said. Ney or Cordero had continually put their safety checks out and back to dispatch over a 45-minute period. “This tells us the scene is secure and we can resume all normal traffic,” she said. An hour and 20 minutes after the unit arrived on scene, “Officer Cordero had screamed the order no one ever wants to hear. Shots fired! Shots fired! Officer down! In a split second, it was all hands on deck.”

Within 30 seconds, they had 17 units heading to the scene. Within one minute and 17 seconds, the paramedics were dispatched and responding and within seven minutes CareFlight was on its way. Barton said the teamwork between all of the agencies involved was outstanding. “Hours and even years of training was executed without a flaw and as a result, Officer Ney’s life was saved that day,” she said.

Barton shared that Ney and Cordero are like family to her. She grew up in a law enforcement family. “They’re not just voices on the other end of the radio to me, they are my family, my friends, people I care about and people I got the pleasure to grow up with and now work beside. As a dispatcher, it’s our main goal to bring each and every unit home safely to their families every single day,” she said.

Barton concluded, “If this incident has taught me anything about being a dispatcher, it’s that tragedy can strike at any moment and to never get complacent in the job you do every single day.”

Richmond, Ind. Police Officer Ami Miller, stepmother of K9 Officer Seara Burton, and wife to her mother, shared the story of Burton who was shot on Aug. 10, 2022, less than a month after Ney had been shot. Both Ney and Burton were at Miami Valley Hospital at the same time. Burton succumbed to her injuries on Sept. 18, 2022. She was 28 at the time of her death.

Miller said she knew that Burton had the calling to be a police officer. “She was driven. She hung onto every word I said,” she said. Miller said as Burton became more seasoned as an officer, her pride, integrity and drive began to show. Miller shared that Burton would often call her family and excitedly share stories from her day. Miller recalled the time Burton called them to tell them about a vehicle pursuit. The suspect had stolen a street sweeper.

In February 2022, Miller said Burton achieved her goal of becoming the first female K9 handler for the Richmond Police Department. She and Brev, her K9, quickly became a dynamic duo and took large amounts of drugs off the street.

Since Aug. 10, 2022, Miller said her family has met many people that are experiencing the same grief, pain and loss that they have. “I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the Ney family. As I’m writing this, I admit I have not met Eric Ney. You sir are a true warrior. I’d like to take this time to thank his wife, Lisa, who is here today, as well. Lisa was at Miami Valley with Eric the same time we were there with Seara. Lisa was there for our family. I remember the Honor Walk for Seara. Lisa was standing as we were about to pass her. She grabbed me and gave me hug that I will always. That was the hardest walk I’ve ever taken, but Lisa, you made it a little bit better,” she said.

Miller said she has adopted the hashtag #untilmylastbreath and shared what that means to her. “I made a promise to Seara that I would never let her be forgotten. But there are a few things I would like to add to this hashtag. To Seara, I promise this. Until my last breath I will stand tall and wear my uniform as you did with pride and integrity. Until my last breath I will fight for change in hopes that no other families will have to suffer such a loss. Until my last breath I will be strong and protect our family. And until my last breath you and the sacrifice you made will never be forgotten,” Miller added.

The Back the Blue Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony coincides with the National Peace Officers Memorial Day on May 15.

To contact Daily Advocate Editor Ryan Berry, email [email protected].

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