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Firefighter charged with attempted capital murder after 4-hour police standoff

Police said Zachariah Burd, who may have been suicidal, barricaded himself inside his house and fired shots


By Margaret Matray
The Virginian-Pilot

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — A Portsmouth firefighter was charged with attempted capital murder of a law enforcement officer in connection with a four-hour standoff Monday night at his Cradock home.

No one was injured. Police said the man barricaded himself inside his house in the 140 block of Gillis Road and fired shots.

Zachariah Ramsey Burd, 33, was taken into custody and faces charges of attempted capital murder. (Photo/Portsmouth Police Department)
Zachariah Ramsey Burd, 33, was taken into custody and faces charges of attempted capital murder. (Photo/Portsmouth Police Department)

Court records show Zachariah Ramsey Burd, 33, was taken into custody early Tuesday morning and faces charges of attempted capital murder, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony and misdemeanor reckless handling of a firearm.

Burd has been a Portsmouth firefighter for six years, according to documents filed in General District Court.

The Fire Department and city spokeswoman Dana Woodson could not be reached Tuesday afternoon. A woman who answered the door at Burd’s house Tuesday morning declined to speak with a reporter.

Medics were dispatched to the house Monday after Burd made Facebook posts alluding to “suicidal ideations,” according to a probable cause summary filed in court. They heard a gunshot inside the home when they arrived.

Officers set up a perimeter around the house, identified themselves as police and tried to get Burd to take a phone call from a negotiator, the court document says.

But Burd became “extremely irate” and refused to come out, according to the summary. He was yelling out of his windows, and an officer continuously talked with him, trying to get him to answer the negotiator’s call.

Burd eventually emerged, “irate and armed,” and fired several shots in the direction of officers around the house, Detective Misty Holley, a police spokeswoman, wrote in a news release.

One officer sought cover behind a neighbor’s house and heard a gunshot ricochet above her head on the siding, court documents say.

Police arrested Burd without incident shortly after 12:15 a.m. Tuesday.

During the barricade, neighbors were told to stay in their homes and take cover. Some were evacuated to a bus, Holley said.

Portsmouth’s SWAT team responded, and officials set up a command center on nearby Decatur Street. Officers, some with rifles and shields, were spread across several blocks of the neighborhood. Fire department crews also were there.

On Tuesday, a neighbor said the block is typically calm. The barricade scene from the night before – all those officers and equipment – was like “something you would see in a movie,” he said.

“This is a pretty little quiet section right here,” said the neighbor, who declined to give his name.

Burd is being held without bond at the city jail and is scheduled for a court hearing Sept. 22. Court documents do not name a defense attorney.

Pilot writer Amir Vera contributed to this report.

Copyright 2017 The Virginian-Pilot

McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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