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Departments : Shots Fired

Shots Fired: Gaston County, N.C. 07/06/2009

Called to a run-of-the-mill breaking and entering, three North Carolina officers confronted a monster.

January 31, 2010  |  by - Also by this author

But the TASER did not incapacitate Burris. He rolled off of the couch and landed in a seated position on the floor. The suspect raised his pistol toward Williamson and Kuzia.

Oh shit, Shaw thought. He raised his sidearm and fired a point shot. Simultaneously, Williamson opened fire with her sidearm.

Burris rolled onto his right side. His right hand rolled to the floor and opened up, exposing the gun in his palm. The only sounds that could be heard in the room were Burris' gasps for air.

Shaw knew he needed cover. He got up and positioned himself in the opening at the front door.

"If he grabs that gun again," Shaw told himself. "I'm going to shoot him again."

Williamson asked Shaw if he was OK.

"Yeah, I'm fine," he said, curious about why she'd asked. "I'm OK."

Then he felt a little burning in his leg.

Feeling like Forrest Gump, Shaw wondered if something had bitten him. He tried to look down at his leg to see what it was, but the only light in the house was from his and his fellow officers' flashlights, which were now trained on Burris. Still, Shaw's pain and curiosity got the better of him, and he periodically swept the flashlight beam away from Burris, onto his leg, and back again.

Finally, he looked down and saw a blood stain on his leg.

He shot me, Shaw realized.

Threat Neutralized

Shaw radioed communications to let them know that he'd been shot in the upper leg.

It appeared that Burris had taken his last breath, but Shaw wasn't taking any chances. He kept his gun trained on the downed suspect. Realizing that Shaw and Williamson still had their sights trained on Burris, Kuzia immediately turned his attention to the Stameys as prospective threats and detained them.

It seemed like an eternity before the first unit arrived. Once the first backup officer responded, Williamson covered the suspect and told Shaw to go outside.

Standing in the driveway next to Kuzia's car, Shaw told Officer Daniel Hawley that the suspect was down and lying in the living room. He saw the people who had reported the breaking and entering call were in the yard.

As Hawley went inside, Shaw took off his duty belt and laid it on the trunk of Officer Kuzia's car. He stripped down, dropping his boxers to see what was going on. He saw an entrance wound where he'd been shot in the leg. A few inches past the entrance wound, he felt a lump in his leg-the bullet had struck a pocket knife in his pants pocket, and the round's energy had dissipated so the bullet stayed in his leg.

Emergency personnel soon arrived on scene. As Shaw sat in an ambulance awaiting transport, an EMS worker exited the house and advised the officer that his assailant had died.

Shaw and Williamson had fired a total of five rounds. Three 180-grain Federal hollowpoint bullets from Shaw and two from Williamson were all on target-none more fortuitous than one of Williamson's that went down the barrel of Burris' pistol, disarming it. The remaining rounds struck Burris in the head, chest, neck, and leg.

Shaw was taken to Gaston Memorial Hospital where the attending physician determined that his injuries weren't life threatening and recommended that a plastic surgeon remove the bullet in a more sterile environment.

Burris' Bloody Spree

The shooting ended a killing spree in which Burris took five lives in Cherokee County, S.C.

Just two months after being released from a North Carolina prison where he served eight years for a series of break-ins, Burris murdered 63-year-old farmer Kline Cash in his own home in Cherokee County. Three days later, Gena Linder Parker and her mother Hazel Linder were found bound and shot to death at Mrs. Linder's home, a few miles away from the Cash farm.

The following day, Stephen Tyler and his 15-year-old daughter, Abbey, were shot as they closed their family business in Gaffney. All of the victims lived within a 10-mile radius. Investigators used ballistic evidence from Burris' gun to connect him to all five murders. No one will ever know why Burris went on this killing spree.

The Stameys told investigators that they had just met Burris and spent several days partying with him. They were unaware of his murderous acts. Subsequent toxicological tests revealed that Burris had been on a 48-hour cocaine binge. No charges were brought against the Stameys.

The trio of officers received commendations from the Gaston County Commissioner's Office and local congressional representative Sue Myrick.

Asked if he would do anything different, Shaw reflects, "Looking back, I would have already had the gun in my hand, and maybe not approached him so closely. But even then, I don't know that the outcome would have been any different given the layout of the house and the fact that he just got off a blind shot. When I talk about this, it takes minutes to lay out what transpired in a matter of seconds-between the thoughts and actions that took place in that environment."

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