An unidentified Sardis police officer on duty said he found evidence that the police station had been broken into about 2 a.m., said Pat Morgan, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation special agent in charge. He summoned a Burke County sheriff’s deputy; they investigated and found Burke armed with an ax. A struggle followed, and the Sardis officer shot Burke, Morgan said.
According to previous news stories in The True Citizen newspaper of Waynesboro and the Sylvania Telephone, Burke had a recent history of legal trouble.
The officer, referred to by some locals as “Robocop,” resigned from Sardis in December 2009. He had been investigated by the GBI after text-message photos of him unclothed in the Sardis police restroom were transmitted.
In a resignation letter, Burke said he was leaving for a higher-paying job.
GBI agents later confirmed he took the photos at the police headquarters but cleared him of any allegations.
Five months later, he was arrested by GBI agents in Sylvania on charges of terroristic threats and acts.
The GBI told The True Citizen the charges stemmed from a May 2009 incident in which Burke was accused of dressing in a mask and breaking out windows at two Sardis homes. He fled when a homeowner fired a shotgun into the air. Burke had made numerous attempts to serve warrants at the home the previous day and complained that the residents were uncooperative.
In July 2010, he was arrested after a traffic stop in coastal Georgia’s McIntosh County. Burke told the officer he was a military police officer. He quickly recanted, produced a Screven County Sheriff’s Office badge and claimed to be an officer. Burke had previously worked in Screven County as a jailer.
Officer found two handguns, a number of prescription drugs and 76 Ecstasy pills in his possession.
In July 2012, Burke surrendered to Sylvania authorities after warrants were taken out in connection with a Sylvania residential burglary involving the theft of $16,000 in jewelry.
Morgan said that the investigation into the Sardis Police Department shooting is in its early stages and that agents have not been able to determine what was taken from the evidence room.
He said it is not unusual for the police station to be left unstaffed at night. At the small department, there is usually only one officer on duty at night.