More than 200 people gathered outside the Squirrel Cage Jail on Saturday to honor late Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Deputy Mark Burbridge with a public art exhibit.
The statue of a horse with no rider, one of the Horses of Honor memorials, was painted with scenes of motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, a badge, a “dream” car garage and other vignettes that represented Burbridge’s life and interests.
“He was everybody’s friend,” said Sheriff’s Sgt. Jason LeMaster after a brief unveiling ceremony. “This is a place where you can go and remember who he was as a person. You can see who he was through the drawings.”
LeMaster said the horse is located perfectly. Burbridge often helped with Historical and Preservation Society of Pottawattamie County projects at the historic jail and worked at the nearby courthouse every day.
“This is the center of town, the hub,” LeMaster said. “I’m glad this is here.”
On May 1, 2017, Burbridge died during a jail escape. Wesley Correa-Carmenaty shot and killed Mark Burbridge and wounded Deputy Pat Morgan and off-duty Omaha Correctional Center Officer Jerry Brittain during the incident.
Sheriff Jeff Danker said Morgan is still recovering from the incident and has not returned to duty. Brittain’s mother said Saturday that her son has recovered and returned to work. Correa-Carmenaty is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Burbridge was a volunteer who spent countless hours working on projects at the Squirrel Cage Jail. LeMaster, the vice president of the historical society, said Burbridge was one of his best friends and was a big help as the society worked to preserve the jail.
The Horses of Honor project started in Chicago, with Omaha joining in recent years. LeMaster said Omaha Police Lt. Darci Tierney reached out to Chief Deputy Sheriff John Reynolds to see if the agency would like a horse for Burbridge.
The Chicago Police Department commissioned the horse, which was sent to artist Jefferson Davis of Woodbine, Iowa. Davis headed up the work, bringing on another six artists to use the horse as a canvas. Those artists, all from the Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan area, were Dax Sterner, Bill Vlcek, Pam Robbins, Dotti Seymoure, Pollock Joe and Rick Hiltbrunner.
Davis said it took about seven months to paint the horse. LeMaster and Davis spoke with family and friends of Burbridge to determine the scenes that would be painted.
“As an artist, I truly believe in the power of art. And in this case, that power is promoting healing” for family and friends, Davis said. “Giving them this memorial, having this for them, is part of the healing process.”
As the incident’s one-year anniversary nears, Danker said Saturday that Burbridge will be on the mind of many in Pottawattamie County and beyond.
“It just brings all those feelings back up again,” the sheriff said.