Burt allegedly killed in gunfight:

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 14, 2000

Border Patrol agent allegedly

kills suspected Troy bank robber

Constantine Burt

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Managing Editor

Sept. 13, 2000 10 PM

LAS CRUCES, N.M. – A suspect in a Troy bank robbery is believed to have been shot to death Tuesday night near Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Although reports have not been officially confirmed, local and federal law enforcement officers believe a man killed by U.S. Border Patrol agents on U.S. Interstate 10 near Las Cruces, N.M., is Constantine Burt, 26, of Century, Fla.

Burt is a suspect in the March 29 bank robbery of Regions Bank’s Park Street branch in Troy.

"We have not received official word from the autopsy report, but we have been told that the man appears to be Burt," said Troy Police Chief Anthony Everage.

A spokesperson for the Federal Bureau of Investigation said that agency is operating under the assumption that the man is Burt.

"We cannot officially verify that it is Burt at this time, but there is evidence to suggest that he is Burt," the spokesperson said. "Until we have official confirmation, we are operating under that assumption."

According to law enforcement officials in New Mexico, including federal and state agents, Burt was stopped at an "internal" checkpoint by the Border Patrol on Interstate 10 south of Las Cruces around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday night. Internal checkpoints are routine in the area and officers use them to spot check for illegal aliens and for drugs that are often smuggled into the area from Mexico.

The man believed to be Burt, fled the roadblock before being caught after a brief chase.

As a Border Patrol officer approached the stopped vehicle and ordered the suspect to exit, the man threw open the door and drew a firearm which discharged two rounds near the head of the officer, leaving powder burns on the officer’s face and head.

Miraculously, the bullets passed by the agent’s head when the agent pushed the suspect’s arm away to dodge the bullets. The burns resulted from the point-blank discharge of the weapon near the officer’s face.

The officer discharged his weapon 11 times, unofficial sources report. Five of those bullets struck the suspect, and at least one round struck his head. The suspect was ruled dead at the scene.

Federal officers believe the man was Burt. They said they think Burt was en route to Arizona where he had relatives. He has apparently been there before and is familiar with the area, sources confirm.

Officials believe the suspect killed in the Tuesday night shoot-out was Burt based on the vehicle the suspect was in which was reported stolen from Escambia County, Fla. They also used photographs of Burt to identify the body.

Officers said the suspect who was slain was driving a car with a Texas license plate that did not match the vehicle’s description. They believe the plate was stolen as Burt made his way across the country, fleeing an intense manhunt for him in South Alabama and North Florida.

Official confirmation of the man’s identity is pending an autopsy report that should be issued today. According to Capt. Ferrin Segatta with the New Mexico State Police, dental records and fingerprints will be used to identify the man.

"Hopefully these things will give us a match and we will be able to confirm the man’s identity," he said.

Burt, described by law enforcement officers as a man who enjoyed his notoriety as someone who was difficult to catch, was wanted on charges for several crimes in Alabama and Florida including armed robbery and kidnapping. He is believed to be responsible for other crimes as well.

"This is a man who was dangerous," said Everage. "He had chosen to live a lifestyle that made him a hero to some people who knew him or who knew of him. Ultimately, his insistence on living a life of crime and his refusal to surrender when he was wanted by several agencies resulted in his death. It was one of those things that was bound to happen sooner or later."

Everage, whose department undertook a fruitless four-day manhunt for Burt after arresting two suspects in the Troy bank robbery at the scene of the crime, said he believes it is fortunate that Burt had not seriously injured or killed someone.

"He had made up his mind that he would not be taken alive," Everage said. "It was something he had reportedly said on several occasions. He wanted to be a hero, and he was. We’re just fortunate that no officers or civilians were killed before he was."

Everage said Burt’s infamy is not surprising considering his ability to elude officers in the woods and in rough terrain.

"This is a guy who wasn’t afraid of the woods," Everage said. "He could dig in and survive. He wasn’t afraid to run or to do whatever he had to do to escape. That’s why his death is not surprising. We believed it was inevitable."

With two suspects from the Troy bank robbery in March in FBI custody after entering guilty pleas and Burt believed to be dead, Everage said the Troy Regions Bank robbery case is closed, pending final confirmation that Burt has been killed.

"If this man is Burt, we expect to close the case on the bank robbery," Everage said.

Alabama Governor Don Siegelman had issued a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Burt for his alleged involvement in the Regions Bank robbery in Troy.