Police shooting suspect denied deal

David Irvin

District Judge Stephen Quinn on Monday rejected a plea agreement offered to a man accused of shooting a Clovis police detective.

Timothy Michael Burke, 52, is accused of shooting Detective Keith Bessette in December of 2002. Police returned fire, severely injuring Burke, who is now paralyzed from the chest down.

Under the agreement Burke would have pled guilty to four of the six counts against him, leading to a 28 1/2-year sentence that would have been suspended. If convicted of the charges against him, Burke will receive a maximum of 29 1/2 years.

Count one and count two of the charges were committed against the same person, so Burke could only be prosecuted on one or the other, District Attorney Brett Carter said.

Quinn said he understood objections about the deal expressed last week by police officers. Rather allowing for the plea agreement, Quinn wanted to send him to the department of corrections and let them make that decision.

He announced his decision to reject the deal on the basis that, “for the crimes committed the bargain would not commit Burke to the department of corrections.”

Quinn said he had concerns about allowing Burke to remain at the Fort Bayard Medical Facility in Fort Bayard near Silver City, as it’s not a “lock down” facility.

Burke’s medical report stated he is a paraplegic and he has some mobility within the Fort Bayard Medical Facility, where he now lives. However, the chance he will ever be discharged from the facility — considering his terminal medical condition — was described in the report as “low.”

If the bargain had been accepted and the sentence of 28 1/2 years suspended, Burke would have remained at his current medical facility indefinitely. Now he will go to trial on all six counts against him.

Burke is charged with one count of aggravated battery upon a peace officer resulting in great bodily harm, three counts of assault with intent to commit a violent felony upon a peace officer, one count of possession of a controlled substance, and one count of resisting, evading or obstructing a peace officer.

However, even if convicted and sent to prison, there is a good chance he will end up in the same medical facility, Carter and public defender Jim Wilson said Thursday in court.

Bessette’s wife Carol said Quinn’s decision demonstrates that the courts in Clovis are starting to support the work of the police.

“I really thought he was going to agree with what they were saying,” Carol said, referring to the public defender Wilson and Carter’s arguments in favor of giving Burke the deal.

“I was just praying that he would be on our side,” she said. “If we get this kind of support it will encourage more people to become officers.”

Bessette, who has recovered from his injuries, is in Iraq working as a police officer and was unavailable for comment. He is helping new Iraqi police recruits learn their job.
Wilson would not comment on Quinn’s decision on Monday.

Carter said Quinn rejected the bargain to keep his options open and wanted the department of corrections — rather than the 9th Judicial District Court — to send him back to Fort Bayard.

“I think ultimately he’ll end up in that facility,” Carter said.
Monday’s hearing was a continuation of Thursday’s court proceeding when several Clovis police argued against the plea bargain, saying it would set a precedent that the courts are soft on cop shooters.

Quinn stopped Thursday’s hearing when he could not obtain a medical report on Burke’s current condition.

The date for Burke’s trial has not been set.