Autopsy confirms slain man

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 15, 2000

is bank robbery suspect


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Sept. 14, 2000 10 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M – An autopsy at the New Mexico State Crime Laboratory has confirmed that a man killed in a Tuesday shootout with Border Patrol agents in Las Cruces, N.M., is Constantine Burt, 26, of Century, Fla.

Burt, known locally for an alleged armed robbery of Regions Bank in Troy with two companions, made a reputation for himself in recent years, vowing to kill officers before being taken into custody.

His prophetic statements were nearly accurate as he sought to escape from a Border Patrol checkpoint near Las Cruces Tuesday night around 11:30 p.m.

He was killed in a shootout, officials have determined, through fingerprint samples and facial comparisons.

After being chased for approximately two miles along U.S. Interstate 10 near Las Cruces, officers were able to bring the car, stolen from Escambia County, Fla., to a stop. Burt was ordered to exit the vehicle by agents, and when he did, he came out shooting.

According to reports, Burt threw the door open and drew a pistol which he fired near the face of one of the officers whose reaction helped him dodge a bullet. The agent was left with powder burns on his head and face as the result of the closeness of the blast.

The injured agent and another agent on the scene returned fire, and Burt fell lifeless, his body riddled with .40 caliber slugs from the officers’ handguns.

The death brought a close to a string of crimes in Alabama, Florida and, police suspect, other states.

Burt, characterized by officers as a "career criminal," has been accused of crimes ranging from bank robbery, to kidnapping and carjacking.

He was considered a suspect in the March 29 bank robbery in Troy, as well as in a bank robbery in January in Century, Fla., his hometown.

Burt had eluded law enforcement agents since pressure on him increased following the Troy bank robbery, which was investigated by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Pensacola CrimeStoppers and Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman have offered rewards totaling $6,000 for information leading to the arrest and capture of Burt.

Besides his work in crime, Burt had attained almost folk-hero status for his ability to elude law enforcement officers, leaving a string of tales across two states of his escapes.

In recent weeks, he managed to flee Century into the woods and rough terrain where he eluded the best efforts of officers, dogs and helicopters. He is once alleged to have escaped a hunt by a U.S. Customs helicopter that featured an infrared tracking device.

Using the swamps, dense woods and backwoods trails to elude capture, Burt was known for living off the land, sometimes for days at a time, when he would break into homes for food and water and steal bicycles to get several miles from the center of the search.

Troy Police Chief Anthony Everage as "elusive" and "tough" describes him when it came to hunting for him. Everage and his men chased Burt through the woods of Pike County for four days before calling off the hunt.

Since that narrow escape, Burt has continued his crime spree, victimizing locals and terrorizing businesses in the panhandle area of Florida and southern Alabama around Century, Flomaton and as far north as Troy.

Everage said Burt enjoyed his status as a wanted criminal.

"This was something he seemed to enjoy," Everage said. "He wanted everybody to know who Constantine Burt was. Now they all do, and he’s dead because of it. It’s a tough way to live and to die."

Law enforcement officers said the news of Burt’s death closes several open cases, including the Regions Bank robbery in Troy.

"We have closed the book on that," Everage said.