Crime

Fake cop was drunk, high when he killed man in Lakeshore. ‘You cannot undo it,’ judge says

A New Orleans man who was in drug and alcohol-fueled rage when he impersonated a cop and killed a man in Hancock County is headed to prison for life without the chance of parole.

Christopher Neely May, 40, pleaded guilty Friday to first-degree murder in the June 7, 2017, shooting and beating death of Clifford Burke near Bayou Caddy.

When Hancock County sheriff’s deputies found Burke, he was in his pickup truck with gunshot wounds to the neck and abdomen, along with other injuries, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Before Burke’s death, prosecutors said he was able to give a description of the suspect’s car — a white Crown Victoria with a strobe light in the front grill that made it appear to be a police car.

Burke told authorities May had stopped him.

Hancock County deputies arrested May after they spotted the car in a casino parking lot and found the murder weapon inside, Assistant District Attorney Chris Daniel said.

Before his sentencing, May said he had been kicked out of a casino that morning because of he was high and drunk. He said he wanted to go fishing so he stopped Burke and the two ended up in an argument.

In the two years since the murder, Burke’s brother, James Burke, said his mother had lost her husband and two sons.

“No mother deserves to witness three deaths in such a short time, and especially the murder of one of her children,” he said. “Her life will never be the same again, and she suffers daily because of what you did. Her heart is forever broken.”

May apologized to the Burke family, blaming what happened on his drug and alcohol use.

Judge Lisa Dodson told May what he had done was an “inexcusable crime driven by cocaine and alcohol,” before she imposed the life sentence.

“You made a really bad decision, and it has affected his family and yours,” Dodson said. “It was a completely senseless act. You cannot undo it.”

District Attorney Joel Smith echoed the sentiment.

This was an inexcusable crime driven by cocaine and alcohol,” Smith said. “This is an important day for Mr. Burke’s family as they seek justice for the loss of a beloved son and father. We appreciate the dedication and commitment of the deputies who made the arrest and gathered the evidence which led to May’s conviction.”

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Margaret Baker is an investigative reporter whose search for truth exposed corrupt sheriffs, a police chief and various jailers and led to the first prosecution of a federal hate crime for the murder of a transgendered person. She worked on the Sun Herald’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Hurricane Katrina team. When she pursues a big story, she is relentless.
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