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Corrections Deputy Irving Burkett

Portrait photo of Irving Burkett.
End of Watch:
Thursday, August 21, 2003
Complications related to gunfire

Late on the evening of July 25, 1982, six adults in custody (AICs) being held at the Multnomah County Rocky Butte Jail undertook a bold escape attempt. The inmates took a total of five corrections deputies and five civilian staff hostage as they made their way through eleven locked doors and gates during the 45-minute escape. Deputy Irving Burkett was one of two deputies working in the control center on the first floor when he was shot in the head with a .22-caliber pistol by an adult in custody, Stephen Kessler, while trying to reach a radio to alert other deputies of the escape attempt. All six AICs successfully escaped into the night.

Over the next few weeks, five of the six inmates were arrested for their roles in the escape. Kessler was finally arrested in Independence, Missouri, on August 26, 1982. In December of 1982, Kessler pled guilty to Attempted Murder, Attempted Aggravated Murder, Escape, two counts of Kidnap in the First Degree, and four counts of Kidnap in the Second Degree. He was sentenced to 40 to 100 years in prison at the Oregon State Penitentiary. The other five inmates all received prison sentences ranging from 10 to 50 years for their involvement in the escape. 

Deputy Burkett was 61 years old when he was shot. The injuries from the shooting left him permanently disabled until he passed away from complications on August 21, 2003, at the age of 83. Deputy Burkett had been employed by MCSO for 14 years when he was shot. He left behind a wife.