ON THE MORNING of July 15, 2020, a confrontation between Stockton police officers and Antwaune Burrise Sr. at a Stockton apartment complex ended in tragedy when shots were fired, resulting in Burrise’s death, leaving his family searching for answers and struggling to cope with his untimely demise.

Three years later, Burrise’s mother Stephanie Hatten continues to fight for justice as she believes the police wrongfully killed her son.

Hatten claims her son was not a threat and was “in a surrender position” in his car when police shot him.

“When I got the video, I heard them say ‘keep your hands up,’ not ‘put your hands up,’” said Hatten, who claims the police knew her son had his hands up and wants to know why her son is dead. “I’m stuck right there … Just tell me why he is dead.”

Stephanie Hatten speaks during a healing event for crime survivors at God’s Church City of David in Stockton on Nov. 15, 2022. Now more than three years since losing her son Antwaune Burrise Sr. in a police shooting, Hatten, the coordinator for the local chapter of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, continues to look for closure as she believes the police wrongfully killed her son. (Harika Maddala/Bay City News/Catchlight Local)

According to Stockton police, Burrise was wanted in connection with a June 1, 2020, fatal shooting of 39-year-old Renard Thomas. Thomas was found shot multiple times inside a vehicle in the 300 block of Florence Street in Stockton. The police said Burrise had a homicide warrant issued for his arrest and was considered armed and dangerous.

Del’Neciyo Burrise leans on his mother, Elisa Mulvihill, as she tears up during a healing event for crime survivors at God’s Church City of David in Stockton on Nov. 15, 2022. (Harika Maddala/Bay City News/Catchlight Local)

In a statement released on July 16, 2020, a day after Burrise was shot, the Stockton Police Department said police had been actively looking for Burrise. Burrise had been in prison until April 2020 and was on post-release community supervision. According to Stockton police, he was also on federal probation for felony possession of a firearm and other fraud-related crimes. 

The police further revealed that officers had attempted to block Burrise’s escape using their vehicles, and in an attempt to evade capture, Burrise rammed the blockade. The situation escalated rapidly as Burrise allegedly reversed his vehicle into the path of an undercover officer, prompting three officers — Ofc. Blake Epperson, Det. John Griffin and Ofc. David Wells — to open fire in response to the threat.

On Aug. 4, 20 days after the shooting, Stockton police released edited bodycam footage showing the final moments leading up to it.

‘Get out of here!’

The edited video revealed officers attempting to stop Burrise as he maneuvered his car in the apartment’s parking lot. Amid screeching tires, an unidentified officer can be heard shouting out to Griffin to “get out of here.” Burrise’s car appeared to be blocked off by a police car on the right and a white SUV on the left.

Griffin then moved from behind the SUV to a space between two parked cars in the lot while pointing his gun at Burrise’s car. The video showed Burrise proceeding back up toward the cars. Shots were fired from multiple directions as officers responded to what they perceived as a threat. 

After Burrise failed to respond to commands to exit his vehicle, officers extracted him and provided emergency first aid before he was rushed to the hospital. Burrise later succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead.  

Elisa Mulvihill, wife of Antwaune Burrise Sr., looks at her locket with a photo of the two of them together on July 15, 2021, the day of his first death anniversary. Mulvihill managed the apartment complex where the couple lived with their two children on the day Burrise was shot and killed by Stockton Police officers. (Harika Maddala/Bay City News/Catchlight Local)

Police said investigators found a loaded handgun and a loaded assault rifle, both with extended magazines, in Burrise’s car. 

Epperson, Griffin and Wells were placed on a three-day paid administrative leave pending the ongoing investigation, standard protocol in such cases. Stockton Police Department’s Public Information Officer David Scott said the officers are currently employed with the department.

A police statement said, “Investigators believe Burrise is responsible for other shootings, street gang activity and violent crimes committed within the city of Stockton. Through intelligence gathering, we have learned there are community members who are fearful of Burrise and have been intimidated by him,” and asked the public to come forward with additional information. 

‘They executed him’

Burrise’s family has a different account of what happened the day of his shooting. 

Burrise lived in the apartment complex where police located him. He lived there with his wife Elisa Mulvihill, who managed the complex, and their two children, Athena Burrise and Del’Neciyo Burrise. 

“The address you [police officers] found him at was his address; the address was on DMV,” Mulvihill said. “If you wanted him, you could have safely apprehended him at the courthouse steps the day before, too.” 

Burrise returned from prison in April 2020 after serving time for possession of a firearm and other fraud-related crimes. His wife said he had to go to court on July 14 and was awaiting his visit from his probation officer the next morning — the day of the shooting. 

“If you wanted him, you could have safely apprehended him at the courthouse steps the day before, too.”

Elisa Mulvihill, wife of Antwaune Burrise Sr.

Mulvihill asked him to move his BMW from an unauthorized parking stall in the complex before leaving for work. She said she noticed several police cars from her office window.   

“Did you hear that? I think they are gunshots,” Mulvihill recalled hearing her coworker say. As she stepped outside, she saw her 9-year-old son at gunpoint and her 17-year-old daughter in handcuffs. 

Hours later, the hospital informed the family that Burrise died from his wounds inflicted during the incident.  

Stephanie Hatten looks at the bullet holes on her son’s BMW on July 7, 2021 — a reminder of the police shooting that ended his life. The blood-stained car where Antwaune Burrise Sr. spent his last moments remained parked outside Hatten’s residence for nearly a year. (Harika Maddala/Bay City News/Catchlight Local)

Following his death, Mulvihill lost her job at the apartment where she had worked for nearly 16 years. She was served a seven-day notice to move, and the owner billed her $3,500 for the damage to the garage from bullet holes. She worked with the property owner to submit a claim to the city, and the bill was paid off in early 2023. 

Mulvihill and her children, along with Hatten, moved in with Burrise’s sister and Hatten’s daughter Timmiya Burrise, who lived with her three children.   

“They killed my son; they executed him,” said Stephanie Hatten, as she sat outside her daughter’s home a year after the shooting, looking at the car in which her son perished. 

For nearly a year, the blood-stained, bullet-hole-ridden BMW remained parked right outside their residence. According to the mother, the police recovered it as evidence in 2021, shortly before the first anniversary of Burrise’s death.  

She has since called for a thorough and impartial investigation. 

Stephanie Hatten (left) and the family of Caleb Ellis (right) hold up their candles for those who lost their lives to crime in Stockton during a healing event for crime survivors at God’s Church City of David on Nov. 15, 2022. Hatten’s son Antwaune Burrise Sr. was killed in a police-involved shooting. Ellis, a member of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, suddenly passed away after serving 28 years in prison. (Harika Maddala/Bay City News/Catchlight Local)

In 2021, Hatten founded an organization called Bolda Bridges Inc., whose mission is to fight gun violence and provide services and mental health resources to the families affected by gun violence.  

As investigations into the shooting continue, Stockton’s residents await answers and accountability, seeking justice for Antwaune Burrise Sr.’s death. 

The family revealed facts about Burrise that police statements did not mention. Burrise was a partial paraplegic. 

In 2001, he was left paralyzed from the waist down after being shot 14 times. “He was gunned down because of the stance he took against being involved with gangs,” Hatten said. 

“I got all the videos, and I watched them. It hurt, but I had to put my audio in and listen to all of it.” 

Stephanie Hatten, mother of Antwaune Burrise Sr.

Nearly two and half years after being in a wheelchair, Hatten said that Burrise was able to stand on his two feet again but never restored his ability to run.  Some photos of Burrise in their home show Burrise in a wheelchair and some in crutches. 

Hatten claimed the police knew of Burrise’s medical history. “All of them knew it, because when they had arrested him [previously], they didn’t cuff him in the back. They cuffed him in the front.” 

She said Burrise would fall if he were cuffed in the back because of this lack of balance. “When you pull his name up, you already know that,” Hatten said about the police. “He couldn’t run.” 

An urn containing the ashes of Antwaune Burrise Sr. is displayed in front of his painted portrait at his sister Timmiya Burrise’s home in Stockton on July 15, 2021, the first anniversary of his death. (Harika Maddala/Bay City News/Catchlight Local)

Burrise’s mother had access to additional bodycam footage from different officers, all of which she said she had carefully reviewed. 

“I got all the videos, and I watched them,” she said. “It hurt, but I had to put my audio in and listen to all of it.” 

One of the videos, as Hatten described, plays audio of an officer on the radio watching Burrise describe his height and body. 

“[In the bodycam footage], you heard the officer describing and everything when he [Burrise] was leaving his house,” Hatten spoke of the additional bodycam footage. “He wasn’t running. He was casually walking into his car. Why didn’t you take him right there?” 

Burrise’s wife Mulvihill said police had no intention of taking Burrise out of the apartment complex alive. “Because if they wanted to get him out alive, they could have as soon as they laid eyes on him walking out of the front door,” she said. “They had already surrounded him.” 

‘None of us are the same’

 Today, Burrise’s wife and the children live in a different home in Stockton. Hatten and her daughter Timmiya Burrise and her children relocated as well. They still spend a lot of their time together at Burrise’s sister’s new place. 

“None of us are the same anymore,” Mulvihill said, speaking about how much their lives have changed since the shooting. She said if she did not have the kids to look after, she might not be able to get out of bed. “I have to because my kids depend on me. If I don’t do it, nobody else will.” 

From left, Antwaune Burrise’s wife Elisa Mulvihill, sister Timmiya Burrise and mother Stephanie Hatten gather in the living room as his son and grandchildren watch TV at Stephanie Hatten’s residence in Stockton on April 7, 2023. “None of us are the same anymore,” said Mulvihill, who some days finds it hard to get out of bed and face the world. “I have to because my kids depend on me. If I don’t do it, nobody else will.” (Harika Maddala/Bay City News/Catchlight Local)

Burrise’s family does not shy away from speaking about Burrise’s criminal record. “Antwaune was not an angel, but his criminal history is public record,” Mulvihill said. “He has identity theft; he has fraud. But where do you get this ‘killer’ from?” 

His wife and mother don’t necessarily see him as innocent, they believe he was robbed of the opportunity to be tried in court for the crimes of which he was accused. 

Mulvihill said, “If Antwaune was all of these things, they [police] claim he is then he should have been held accountable based upon the law. But the cops didn’t give him that opportunity. They had been his jury and the executioner before he could even have a fair trial. 

“I’m saying when you’re convicted, you go to jail, and then you get the death penalty. Yet these cops are out here before people even get to go to court and have a jury decide their fate. They’re just there deciding it for them; they’re deciding if they’re guilty or not.” 

Harika Maddala is a photojournalist based in Stockton covering San Joaquin County for Bay City News Foundation and its nonprofit news site Local News Matters. They are a Report for America corps member and a CatchLight Local Fellow.