AUBURN, Ala. (WRBL)— Former Auburn University student Lauren Burk was brutally murdered 14 years ago today, March 4, 2008. A day former Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson will remember for years to come.

Today 14 years ago, Burk was ambushed in a parking lot at Auburn University after leaving a campus building around 8 p.m. According to officials, Burk was forced into her car at gunpoint, forced to undress and drive the perpetrator around for about 30 minutes before she was shot while attempting to jump out of the car.

Former Chief Dawson served as Auburn Police Chief from 2010 to 2013, altogether he served as a member of the police division for nearly 26 years. At the time of Burk’s death he served as assistant chief. Dawson now serves the city in a different capacity as city councilor.

Currently he is in his second term as councilor and for the past two years during the first meeting of March, Dawson has reminded the Auburn community about the life lost.

During the Auburn City Council meeting on March 2, 2021, he recalled the terrible night and urged the Auburn community to never forget Burk.

“March 4, 2008, 13 years ago it was a cool night from March standards even, I was at home about 9-9:30 I got a call. The young lady had been found lying in the middle of the road, on I-47. I responded out there, found out what we had, and the chief registered the time, our captain took over the scene. I went over to the hospital to check on the young lady, and when I got there I found out she had been pronounced deceased. I met her dad at exit 58, took him over to identify her remains, one of the hardest things I have ever gone through. I still can see Lauren there lying in the East Alabama Medical Center, lifeless. Such a senseless, senseless, senseless homicide. It was awful, but I say that to say this, I promised her dad her death would not be in vain, we’ll never forget her. We haven’t forgot her Mr. Burk, she’s constantly on my mind and in my heart, and if any young ladies are listening to this council meeting tonight, think of Lauren. You always think it can’t happen to you, but it can happen to you. Take the extra precautions, and if you feel at the least uneasy about something, just something doesn’t feel right to you, call the Auburn Police Division, we’ll be glad to walk you to your car, I say we, Chief Anderson and his folks now would be glad to walk you to the car, it’s hard to get away from saying we but, we deeply care about our students especially our young ladies. For all of us that have daughters, you know what I’m talking about. It’s a tough thing to let your daughter go. So, just please be careful out there, if anyone that hears can spread my message, it can happen to you when you don’t think it can. And to Mr. Burk, again I am so sorry for what you’re going through I know it never gets any easier, and prayers are still with you, my friend.”

Former Chief Tommy Dawson // March 2, 2021

When speaking with Dawson, he says March 4th is a day he will never forget.

“I’ve experienced homicides before, and this one hit close to home because I had a teenage daughter at the same time myself. I have my only child, my daughter and she was a teenager at the same time of Lauren’s death… So when I had to take Jim, her father to the hospital, to identify her body, the look on his face when he saw her. I’ll never forget it.”

Just as he will never forget, earlier this week on the March 1 meeting he reminded the community of the life lost, asking the community of Auburn to never forget.

“I’d like to ask each one of you say a prayer this coming Friday, March the 4th. Back in 2008 we lost Ms. Lauren Burk on March the 4th. I’ll never forget it, and I ask none of you ever forget it. Especially our students, when you’re out and about, be aware of your surroundings…. I ask that each of you take time and remember her because I don’t want her to ever be forgotten.”

Former Chief Tommy Dawson // March 1, 2022

Burk was more than a victim of this tragedy, she was a fighter.

“The one thing I always try to get across is Lauren was very, very brave… She jumped out of the vehicle, totally nude, except for a pair of socks, and she fought to the very end. She was not sexually assaulted. She fought it to the very end. And unfortunately, she was murdered in the process. But she was a very, from investigating the case and all, she was very, very brave and I’m heartbroken over it, and always will be,” Dawson affirmed.

Dawson’s message is clear, women of Auburn should stay vigilant because it can happen to anyone. He asks that people use the buddy system when going to and from anywhere, and to always be aware of your surroundings. He asks that people fight back like Burk, make as much noise as possible to deter the perpetrator, and fight back.

Back in September of 2021, Auburn University held a panel on a separate incident stemming from a string of sexual assault reports. Although Burk’s case was not related to these reports and took place a decade and a half before, the safety protocols highlighted by Auburn University are still applicable to students. Some safety resources are listed below:

Public Safety Facility on Auburn University’s campus

In 2004, Campus Safety and the Auburn Police Department merged resources. In 2018, Auburn University Campus Safety & Security and Auburn Police Division University Precinct began to be housed in the same public safety facility on campus. The Auburn University Precinct provides 24-hour police services to Auburn University located at 543 West Magnolia Ave. in addition to this, a police sub-station is also located in the Auburn University Student Center near the Tiger Transit.

Auburn Safety App

The personal safety app dedicated to Auburn University offers a number of features, resources, and a line of communication with Campus Safety and Security for students and employees. There are several features offered in the app including a direct link to call 911, Security Shuttle, Friend Walk, submit a tip, weather information, how to respond to emergency situations, sexual violence resources, other campus resources, a safety toolbox, 2022 gameday information, personal safety tips, and COVID information. Download the public safety app for additional resources and information and get familiar with its layout to be prepared for an emergency.

AU Alert

AU Alert is available to students, gameday visitors, and short-term campus visitors. The emergency notification system is designed to send out time-sensitive emergency information via texts, calls, and e-mails. Students and employees must register in the ‘My Campus’ tab of AU Access. Gameday visitors can text ‘AUGameday’ to 226787 (CAMPUS) to receive notifications for 1-3 days. Families, friends, and community members can be enrolled indefinitely by texting ‘AuburnFamily’ to 226787 (CAMPUS) to receive alerts, and to stop getting alerts just text ‘STOP’ to the same number.

“Friend Walk”

A feature of the Auburn Safety App that allows you to share your location real-time with a friend. With the Friend Walk feature, your friend will be able to see you and can call emergency services through the app if necessary.

Security Shuttle

The Night Security Shuttle runs from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. to on-campus locations only. On the Auburn Safety App you can call to request a pickup, or request a pickup via chat. If any shuttle services are lagging, call the main line at 844-8888.

How to Respond

The ‘How to Respond’ tab on the Auburn Safety app has a number of sub-sections including evacuation routes, shelter in place resources, medical information, fire responses, weather alerts, what suspicious activity looks like and who to contact, what to do when there is a bomb threat, active shooter information, and more.

Blue Light Emergency Phones

Nearly 200 blue light emergency phones have been installed across campus. The blue light phones call 911 directly when activated, officers from the police station are dispatched immediately.

R.A.D. Program

Take a R.A.D. course, offered by the Auburn University Department of Campus Safety and Security’s Rape Aggression Defense, or R.A.D., program. The class teaches safety techniques, how to escape a perpetrator, and self-defense moves. Click here for more information.

On Auburn University’s Department of Campus Safety and Security page, there are multiple resources and tips available including crime prevention tips, crime prevention tips in the time of coronavirus, online dating tips, ride-sharing safety tips, how to protect yourself away from home, while driving, at home, at work, how to protect your property.

Beyond Campus

Beyond Auburn University’s Campus, the Auburn Police Department just recently launched their Eagle Watch Program. The free security camera registration program is available to all residents and business owners in the City of Auburn. The program will provide your surveillance information to the APD’s Detective Section, allowing them to contact you for permission to pull footage that may aid them in solving a crime.

The Auburn Police Division also uses community outreach to work with Auburn’s citizens on keeping them informed with safety and security information. The Community Services Section consists of training, recruiting, crime prevention, drug resistance education, and school resources. For more information on their community services, click here.

Former Chief Dawson continues to spread Burk’s story every year to help people, especially the women of Auburn to remain vigilant. Burk died a tragic death 14 years ago, and today her message lives on to remind women to take charge of their surroundings and become familiar with the additional safety resources available so in the time of an emergency, you will be prepared.

Previous Coverage of Lauren Burk’s Death

April 7, 2020: Lee County Circuit Court Upholds Capital Murder conviction in Auburn University Student’s death in 2008

April 13, 2021: Court rejects appeal of man in Auburn University student’s killing

Dec. 7, 2018: Lauren Burk’s family continues fight for justice as Dec.17 hearing set for her killer in Lee Co.

Dec. 6, 2018: Source: Condemned Alabama man to ask court to consider new trial in murder of AU freshman

Dec. 19, 2018: Hearing continued for convicted killer of AU freshman fighting to get off death row

Dec. 18, 2018: Exclusive: Courtney Lockhart’s trial attorney releases statement after concluding testimony

Dec. 18, 2018: Lockhart defense: ‘He killed her and he should be punished but not condemned to die.’

Dec. 17, 2018: Man who killed Auburn freshman 10 years ago wants death sentence overturned