PHENIX CITY, Ala. (WRBL) — Phenix City Police Chief Ray Smith did not spare words Monday morning when talking about the double homicide that happened on his city’s riverwalk over the weekend.
“These two homicides certainly mean that we have got a murderer in the community that we have not identified,” Smith said at a news conference. “And we need your help to make that identification. So we want to make sure whoever the suspect is is considered armed and dangerous.”
John Arthur Burkus, 32, and Darrly Tremaine Harris, 40, were fatally shot at around 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 3 at the Phenix City Riverwalk.
Police are asking for the public’s help.
People who were on the Phenix City riverwalk, the Columbus riverwalk downtown and the 14th Street pedestrian bridge between noon and 3 p.m. on Saturday could have valuable information and don’t know it.
Police have called this man a “person of interest,” and have said they would like to talk to him.
“This person who is walking will be several hundred yards from where the incident occurred minutes before the incident occurred,” said Rick Chancey, Russell County District Attorney-elect. “So, we are hoping to get an opportunity to talk to him to see if he maybe saw anything or heard anything that would be of help.”
John Burkus’ parents – Dr. Ken Burkus and his wife, Michelle – are also asking anyone who saw anything to say something to the authorities.
“What Michelle and I don’t want to see is for another family to suffer through this,” Ken Burkus said. “And we would like for anybody that was on the riverwalk at that time that can give any information to get this … criminal. To bring this to a conclusion for John (for us). Us meaning the people of Columbus. Let’s get this done. Please come forward and give any information that you might have about spotting this individual. We don’t want other families to be affected. We want Columbus to move forward.”
Police are not saying much publicly about the details of the crime. But Phenix City Police Capt. Skip Lassiter did say this when pressed.
“The crime scene was relatively large,” said Phenix City Police Capt. Darrell Lassiter. “There was approximately 100 yards between one victim and the other.”
Reporter: Mr. Harris was closer to the bench, right?
Lassiter: “That would be correct.”
Reporter: Then Mr. Burkus …
Lassiter: “Was farther north on the riverwalk. And to the best of our knowledge, there was an incident with Mr. Harris and then something happened that drew Mr. Burkus into it.”
Linda Echols is Darrely Harris’ mother. She lives a couple of hours away in Alabama and was coming here Sunday to get her son.
Linda Echols is Harris’ mother.
“I want to talk about my son so he won’t be another black young man lost to the streets to gun violence,” she said. “I am an advocate for parents of gun violence. I am also an evangelist at my church and I am a minister at my church. So I want to talk against gun violence. I don’t want to talk about anything to discredit my son to make it seem like he was a bad person. Because all of us deserve a chance in life. I don’t want his name to be in vain. And I don’t want his death to be in vain.”
Michelle Burkus said that the riverwalk was her 32-year-old son’s place of refuge.
“He went there to think,” Michelle Burkus said. “He went there to sweat. He went there to have joyous times whether it was biking, running, or walking his dog. Probably like a lot of other people in Columbus the riverwalk is a place of meditation. A place of play, and that’s what he was doing there.”
More reports on this case can be found below.