Convicted killer apologizes for fatal shooting of disabled man

Jaquan Dallas

Jaquan Dallas

It was the knock at the door no mother wants to hear.

Gloria Burke’s landlord stood outside, accompanied by two detectives.

The detectives showed Gloria a picture asked her if she recognized the man in the photo. She said it was her son.

They paused for what seemed like minutes.

“I’m so sorry, ma’am,” the detective said. “Your son was just murdered.”

Looking back at relatives of the slain disabled man, first-time felon Jaquan Dallas apologized for pulling the trigger during a botched robbery in November 2014 but stressed he didn’t intend to kill Rodney Burke.

“For every action, there’s a reaction,” the 21-year-old Dallas said in criminal court Friday. “I pray one day y’all can forgive me.”

Burke wasn’t the target of the Nov. 4, 2014 armed heist of a South Broad Street apartment. But he paid with his life for confronting Dallas, one of four people involved in the robbery plot.

Dallas admitted in September to a lesser charge of aggravated manslaughter and was sent to prison for 25 years by Judge Thomas Brown.

Two others, Kenneth Hines and Alexa Gomez, were arrested and charged with murder and conspiracy while another person was never caught.

Rodney Burke

Rodney Burke

Brown called the number of guns flooding the capital city streets “ridiculous” and said it contributed to countless deaths over the years.

The murder of the 48-year-old Burke pierced the crime-plagued city’s bleeding heart.

Dallas was 20 years old when he gunned down Burke, who remained conscious after he was shot but was unable to identify his killer as he was being dragged inside the residence the last moments of his life.

He was found inside an apartment on the 1000 block of South Broad Street, shot several times around 2 a.m. Medics rushed him to Saint Francis Medical Center, where he died.

Burke, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 18, had been repeatedly robbed during the last three years of his life, according to The Trentonian’s award-winning reporting on his murder.

“Around the first of the month when he got his disability check, they would take his money from him,” his mother Gloria Burke told The Trentonian in an interview in November 2014. “He never told me who was doing it; he was scared. They took his money all of the time.”

Assistant Prosecutor Kathleen Petrucci read prepared statements from Burke’s mother and sister as relatives sobbed in benches behind her.

Alexandria Gomez

Alexandria Gomez

Burke’s mother called the killing a “senseless act” that robbed her of her oldest son. She said he remains “forever in our hearts.”

Burke’s sister, Carla, admonished Dallas in her statement for “pulling the trigger without a second thought.”

She said her brother was a giving soul who went to the train station and brought the homeless hot drinks.

“While today may be bad for you, we have to live with this every day,” she wrote.

Offering condolences to the victim’s family, Dallas’ attorney, Tina Frost, said the punishment is significant for her client, who will spend more time in prison than the “years that he’s been on earth.”

Kenneth Hines (Mercer County Prosecutor's Office)

Kenneth Hines (Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office)

She said her client, a high school dropout who grew up fatherless and has fathered kids of his own, hopes to use the time behind to better his life, starting by getting his diploma.

The case isn’t over for the Burke family.

Gomez is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to aggravated manslaughter for 15 years.

Hines rejected plea offers and is set to go on trial in May.

Petrucci recognized nothing will satisfy Burke’s family but hoped the sentence provided “some justice.”

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