Vigil held for woman run over by police cruiser

Joann Burton (from Burton's daughter)
Joann Burton (from Burton's daughter)
Burton's husband places candle at memorial
Burton's husband places candle at memorial
Burton's son places candle at memorial
Burton's son places candle at memorial

By Kimberly Holmes – bio | email

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - A vigil was held Tuesday night for the woman ran over by a police cruiser.

Dozens gathered in Washington Park to remember Joann Burton. She was a newlywed; married just nine months before her death. Thomas Oats, the victim's husband, said he can't believe his new wife is now gone

"That was my beautiful wife," said Oats. "Now who in the world can I talk to?"

He told FOX19 that he left Burton for five minutes Tuesday afternoon. Oats said she was playing with their puppy on a blanket in the grass when he left her. According to police, she was laying under the blankets when she was struck.

When Oats returned from a nearby store, he found his wife injured.

Hours later, family, friends and strangers gathered at the same spot to remember Burton's life, mourn her death, and support her family.

Burton leaves behind three children and a godchild, who says they'll always remember the good times they shared. The children described Burton as a loving mother. Two of her children said they spoke with her a few days ago.

Burton's youngest brother, Jerome, said she fell on hard times and was homeless off and on for the last few years.

"She was a good sister," Jerome said. "She never bothered nobody. She minded her own business."

Homeless advocates said Burton sometimes stayed in the Drop Inn Center in Over the Rhine. Burton's cousin Rick Lundy said she sometimes slept in Washington Park.

"She had a good sense of humor," said Lundy. "She was beautiful. She was struggling a lot, but she was strong, and she always kept the faith. She was trying to get her life together."

City Manager Milton Dohoney also attended the memorial. He said his thoughts and prayers go out to the victim's family.

Dohoney says the investigation will continue, and wouldn't comment on the officer involved, Marty Polk, a 25-year veteran of the police force. He did touch on everyone's big question: why was the officer driving on the grass?

"I don't know when the last time was," said Dohoney. "I'd have to get that information for you, but it's not unusual for us to patrol this park."

Advocates from the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless said patrolling the park is one thing, but added that driving over a blanket on the grass is unacceptable.

"This could have been any of us," said GCCH Executive Director Josh Spring. "For some reason, this officer saw a blanket and decided that it was worth the risk to roll over it. That is bad. It should scare all of us. We need to be outraged."

Spring said his organization now plans to hire an attorney and work with the Burton family.

An autopsy for Burton is scheduled on Wednesday.

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