Murl Harpham .com




"Changing of the Guard"


When finalized, the reports will be sent to the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office. The DA will then review the reports, along with Burgess' autopsy and toxicology reports, and can determine whether charges will be brought against the officer.

A separate internal review completed last week found that Liles' actions fell within the department's policies, Douglas said.

Douglas said that Liles will be returned to full-time duty this week after being placed on administrative leave immediately following the incident.

On Oct. 23, Burgess allegedly threatened three probation officers with a hunting knife when they entered a house where he was staying. He reportedly backed the officers out the door and ran. The officers chased Burgess and were joined by Eureka police and an off-duty county sheriff's deputy. The chase ended in the gulch off Chester Street, when Burgess allegedly brandished the knife at Liles, who shot the teen twice in the chest. Burgess died that afternoon at St. Joseph Hospital.

Douglas said the incident was a tragedy for both Burgess and his family, and for Liles and his family. It never should have happened, Douglas said. Douglas said the officer would likely be criticized for not acting if Burgess had gotten away and hurt someone.

”Lord knows, I wish -- and everyone in this room wishes -- this never happened,” Douglas said.

The reviews analyzed the circumstances leading up to the shooting, Douglas said, including whether Liles should have waited for backup before entering dangerous ground where he might be forced to defend himself with deadly force.

Incoming interim Chief Murl Harpham, who led the internal review of the situation, said Liles had an obligation to take a dangerous person off the street, and the officer put his life on the line to do it.

”There are just times when these things have to be done,” Harpham said.

Reached by phone, Burgess' mother, Margorie, said she was angry and surprised at the conclusions of the reports. She disputed the account that her son came at Liles with a knife, saying he was not a violent boy. She vowed to bring the fight to court, and said she's only fighting the department because it handled the situation wrongly.

”I believe you make the bed you lie in,” Burgess said. If her son had been in the wrong, “I would be crying about my son's life, but I wouldn't be dogging and damning a man (Liles) about it.”

Lawyers for Burgess are weighing whether they have a case.

”We are doing whatever we can to ascertain the facts, very few of which we have at this point,” said Eureka attorney David Dibble.

Dibble said he's conducted some investigation of his own, but has not requested evidence from the police department yet.