The 1953 Cold Case of Officer Burchfield

Officer R. Burchfield

Today is Black Friday and Vidocq is sitting in a local coffee shop watching people come in after hours of shopping. They all look exhausted and in need of espresso.

I hear bits of conversations from the people around me. Mostly, I hear people exchanging tips to get the best out of Black Friday.

I had the car parked on that corner for days now!”

We go in with the three of us! One stands in line and holds our spot while the two of us each take a side of the store and shop as fast as we can before coming back to the line!”

My thoughts are not with Black Friday as a shopping day. My thoughts are with Officer Richard S. Burchfield who was murdered today in 1953. This Friday is Black because of his murder.

Patrolman Burchfield of the Colorado Springs Police Department was shot to death on November 26, 1953, with a .22 caliber handgun by an unknown subject during an armed robbery investigation in the area of 1600 N. Wood Ave. That robbery was part of a pattern that had plagued the area. Burchfield was only 34 years old when he died. He was happily married with three children.

Officer Burchfield was part of a team investigating a series of armed robberies and he had been checking the area for suspects. He radioed to dispatch that he was returning to headquarters around 7:55pm. However, Burchfield never came in.

Shortly after 8:00 p.m., it was Thanksgiving that year, Mr. Robert McVay walked into the police department and told police that he had seen a squad car against the curb near Bijou & El Paso streets, just five blocks away from the police department. 

He saw a man on the outside of the car, stooping down and looking in. He became suspicious when he and his wife saw the man run up the street and enter a car, so McVay drove two blocks north, made a U-turn and went back. The man was still sitting in the car so McVay drove home, then decided to make another trip and drove to the police car and again saw the man looking into the car; McVay stopped and asked ‘Do you need any help?’ to which the man replied ‘Hell no!’ Returning home, McVay tried to call police but the lines were busy, so he drove to the station and reported the incident.”

When officers rushed five blocks down they found one of their own, shot to death in the driver’s seat of his own squad car. Burchfield had died of multiple gunshot wounds. He had been shot eight times at close range behind the right ear, over the right eye, once in the right cheek, twice in the right shoulder, and three times in the right arm. The shots suggest that he was shot by someone in the passenger seat or from the back seat. Vidocq is wondering whether the autopsy revealed anything about the trajectory of the bullets to get a more precise estimate of the shooter’s position.

Nine shells, (along with the bullets identified by the FBI lab as coming from a Colt Woodsman automatic .22 caliber pistol) were found in the car. If those shells have been preserved, it could not hurt to have them re-examined one more time with modern technology to make sure nothing was missed.

Near his feet, his colleagues found an ID card stolen from Alton Peterson, the most recent Wood Ave robbery victim. Here as well, modern technology should be applied to the card to make sure we did not miss a print or any other residue left on the card. Finding the card at Burchfield’s feet suggested to his colleagues that Burchfield had caught the robbery suspect and that he was probably killed by that suspect. I am wondering whether any prints were found inside the squad car that were not Burchfield’s. I am sure the car was searched and hope the prints were preserved. We should check them one more time for matches. A long shot because many people had  a seat in that squad car’s passenger’s seat over the years but still…one more try…for Burchfield?

Other officers canvasing the area found out that some witnesses had seen an old model Ford Coupe that had stopped near the squadcar around the time of the murder. The driver was a white male, tall, thin, and dressed in dark clothes. They were not certain about his age. It could have been late teens or early twenties. Police investigated a few suspects but were never able to solve the case.

The CSPD has a cold cases page on their website and I encourage you to take a look. Should you have any information about the Burchfield cold case or any of the other cold cases, please

Note: Vidocq found that the Officer’s name was spelled as Burchfield and as Birchfield at times.

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