Over 400 public servants – including 200 police dogs from across the state – gathered at the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy this week to recognize the service and sacrifice of a S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) agent. And yes, we double checked – K9 Rico is officially listed as an agent.
The memorial for Rico – a three-year-old Belgian Malinois/ German Shepherd mix – came one week after a violent manhunt ended in a barrage of bullets outside of a residential home in Charleston County. According to SLED, Ernest Burbage III, 38, was located on Johns Island after shooting a deputy in the head and striking a civilian while allegedly under the influence of alcohol.
Multiple schools were shut down while Burbage, a previously convicted felon, evaded law enforcement for two days. He was eventually tracked to a one-story home on Mary Ann Point where SLED deployed a SWAT robot into the residence before unleashing K9 Rico in an attempt to subdue him.
For a recap of what transpired, click here.
Investigators maintain Burbage killed K9 Rico before he himself was gunned down by SLED SWAT team members and local deputies after fleeing the house. The Beaufort County sheriff’s office (BCSO) confirmed they were requested to investigate the incident as an independent body – and that the investigation is ongoing.
SLED typically investigates officer-involved shootings in South Carolina, but handed this case off since its agents were involved.
Like Beaufort County, FITSNews is conducting our own fact-finding mission into Burbage’s rampage — and we already know who bears at least some responsibility for this tragedy.
Four weeks prior to embarking on his Johns Island shooting spree, Burbage stood before a Palmetto State Judge on none other than a criminal weapons charge involving a victim. According to court records, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to credit for sixty days of time served.
Inexplicably, Burbage was granted leniency on a charge known to carry a maximum of five years in prison at the federal level, according to our previous reports.
The judge in question? S.C. circuit court judge Bentley Price of Charleston.
FITSNews is no stranger to Price’s habitual accommodation of violent criminals. As noted earlier this week, his lenient sentences for violent offenders, anemic bonds for accused killers and sketchy procedural moves are case studies in everything that’s wrong with the Palmetto State’s broken system – which continues to enable widespread institutional corruption, shred the rights of victims, empower violent criminals and materially erode public safety.
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During an intimate press conference after K9 Rico’s memorial service, FITSNews asked South Carolina governor Henry McMaster if he had a message for Price in light of recent events. While he did not speak to the judge directly, he recognized the egregious issues within our justice system.
“We’ve got enough laws to handle these things if they’d just be enforced,” McMaster said. “[Burbage] was a convicted felon. He should not have had that rifle. That right there is a crime. But why was he out with all the crimes that he committed?”
“In all likelihood, [Burbage] certainly should have been in jail and this would have never happened,” McMaster said, adding “our judges need to wake up and realize the damage.”
During the same press conference, SLED chief Mark Keel said the deputy and civilian injured during Burbage’s rampage had fully recovered. He then credited K9 Rico for saving human lives on September 28 and that the agency had not lost a dog since 1979.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Andrew Fancher is a Lone Star Emmy award-winning journalist from Dallas, Texas. Cut from a bloodline of outlaws and lawmen alike, he was the first of his family to graduate college which was accomplished with honors. Got a story idea or news tip for Andy? Email him directly and connect with him socially across Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
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