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Shooting scene unfolds


Testimony reveals anger, frustration, history play roles in April 16 event


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Defendant Donald Burke, 50, is led into Judge Daniel Kelly’s courtroom by St. Clair County Sheriff deputies. photo by Maria Brown.

October 15, 2008
PORT HURON — Testimony was expected to resume today (Oct. 15) in the attempted murder trial of Donald Burke.

Fifteen witnesses have already been called to testify by Prosecutor Mike Wendling with Chief Raymond Hawks, Sheriff's Deputy Tim O'Boyle and tow truck driver Mike Thorpe yet to take the stand.

The 50 year-old Capac man allegedly took aim at the three men on April 16 in front of his William G. Drive home, injuring both Hawks and O'Boyle.

Wendling, thus far, has been attempting to paint Burke as a vengeful, angry person who wanted to "even the score with Ray Hawks."

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"He (Burke) knew what would happen on his porch that day," Wendling told the jury of five men and eight women.

"He was lying in wait to attack by surprise."

Burke's attorney, Frederick Lepley, told jurors Hawks had his own motives that day.

"'What can I do to anger this guy?' the chief says," Lepley countered.

"His intent was to get my client out of the house."

Burke's neighbors testified that police frequently stopped at his home on complaints that he'd squeal his car tires, rev the engine, speed up and down the street and play excessively loud music. Neighbor Andrew Kokoszka estimated police were at the Burke residence at least twice a week. Burke's neighbors Bill Klobnock and Monica Teem both testified that Burke had expressed his dislike of Hawks on more than one occasion, telling Klobnock that if circumstances were different he'd "take a slug" at Hawks.

St. Clair County Sheriff Detective David Patterson said Burke told him he'd already received two expensive tickets from Hawks and wasn't going to answer the door on April 16 when Hawks had a third for reckless driving in his hands.

The prosecution contends that Burke purposefully drove erratically through the village streets earlier that morning in an attempt to lure Hawks to his home in a planned ambush.

Burke told Patterson he later looked out the door to see a tow truck backing into his driveway, got very angry and then "he did something stupid," Patterson testified.

"That was when he blacked out. He said he'd heard a 'pop, pop, pop' and looked down and saw a gun in his hands and thought he might have shot someone."

Burke allegedly told a similar account to one of the Sheriff deputies guarding him while in the hospital. Burke was hospitalized soon after his arrest and eventually underwent open heart surgery.

Deputy Jerry Burk said the defendant told him he got upset at the sight of the tow truck, blacked out and then heard a 'pop' like popcorn and he was standing on his front porch.

"He said he 'felt like I did something bad,'" Burk said.

Burke told the deputy he ran from his house and "stood behind the fire hall for five to ten minutes and watched" as neighbors and emergency personnel rushed to help Hawks and O'Boyle before he headed toward Pirrone Produce where he found an empty pickup truck cab to lay down in. Police located Burke there in the early hours on April 17 and took him into custody.

Close to 100 pieces of evidence including dozens of photographs and several voice recordings have been entered into evidence. Jurors have already heard the radio communication between Central Dispatch and Hawks and O'Boyle just before and after shots were fired. Wendling also played two interviews of Burke from his hospital bed, taped by Patterson, and a Sept. 30 phone conversation between Burke and his wife, Karen.

From jail, Burke continues to voice his frustration, saying that Hawks "is crooked."

"This is not your character...that's why I'm saying keep your anger in check," his wife says tearfully.

"Push a dog in a corner...it's gonna get angry," Burke replied.

The .22 caliber rifle determined to have been used in the shooting was also presented. Evidence suggests nine shots were fired.

Det./Lt. David Vroman, a firearms expert with the Michigan State Police crime lab, who examined the weapon, said the .22 long rifle is renowned for its accuracy, has a quiet recoil and its shot is intended to "stop your target."

Burke is expected to take the witness stand later this week in his own defense.

Check our Web site, www.tricitytimes-online.com, for updates as the trial progresses.

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