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Tuesday, Mar 31, 2015

Two Hernando deputy shootings in three days

Tony Holt Hernando Today
Published:   |   Updated: May 10, 2013 at 01:59 PM

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Police said the last hours of Keith Ritchie's life started ticking away the moment he assaulted his live-in fiancé Wednesday night.

Three hours later, while Ritchie was hiding under a tarp in a shed, a German shepherd leaped over a stack of boxes and chomped down on him.

He fired his handgun at the police dog, shooting him in the face, leg and side.

The K-9 was wearing a vest. His handler called him back.

Deputies moved in and Ritchie was shot.

During a Thursday morning media conference, Hernando County Sheriff Richard Nugent said the K-9, named Kilo, is resting and recovering at his handler's home.

Ritchie, on the other hand, was killed at the scene.

"Kilo absolutely found him and went after him right away," said Nugent.

The sheriff called the K-9 "courageous" and said he "still wanted to get after him even after he was shot."

The Brooksville Police Department was called shortly after 8:15 p.m. about a report of a domestic battery at 564 Bell Ave. The suspect had left by the time police arrived, said Chief George Turner, who joined Nugent at the podium during Thursday's media conference.

Less than 45 minutes later, Ritchie, 39, was seen by police walking at the intersection of S. Mildred Avenue and W. Jefferson Street.

Sgt. Jason Matheson, 32, called out to Ritchie, who walked toward him and pulled out a gun, Turner said.

"They were fairly close," said Turner of Matheson's confrontation with Ritchie. "He (Ritchie) immediately pulled a gun and shot at him."

Ritchie fled toward the backyard of a house and continued to fire toward Matheson, Turner said.

A resident several blocks away on Beale Street heard the shots and called 911, according to Brooksville police.

Also involved in the shooting were Sgt. Randal Orman, 36, and Officer Stephen Greenwood, 54. None of the three officers was injured. All have been placed on administrative leave, Turner said.

They lost track of the suspect and the sheriff's office was called to assist in the manhunt.

Sometime after 10 p.m., Kilo found Ritchie hiding in a shed a couple of blocks away at 617 W. Fort Dade Ave., Nugent said.

It was the second time in barely more than 48 hours that a man was fatally wounded by Hernando deputies. In both instances, the suspects fired first, according to the sheriff's office.

Late Monday, a SWAT unit entered the Spring Hill home of Robert Capkovic. Earlier that day, he had opened fire at deputies who were there during a well-being check, Nugent said.

Capkovic was killed after he shot and injured a SWAT deputy, according to media reports.

"Bad guys make the rules when they decide to pull a gun," said Nugent, echoing the sentiments he conveyed earlier in the week. "The police officer didn't have his gun out ... Bad guys set the terms and conditions of a fight.

"If you shoot at a law enforcement officer," Nugent said, "you can expect to die."

There were no eyewitnesses to the moments when Kilo was attacking Ritchie and when Ritchie shot at the dog, said Nugent.

Deputies knew Kilo had attacked Ritchie because they heard him yell, "The dog's biting me," Nugent said.

Kilo was struck three times. His protective vest, which was bought by money donated to the sheriff's office, stopped one of the bullets.

"I think it saved the dog's life," said the sheriff.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating. More details of the shootings will be known after those findings are released, Turner said.

The suspect arrived at the house on Fort Dade and tried to enter through the backdoor, but it was locked.

"He banged on the door and said 'Let me in or I'll kill you,'" Turner said.

A man who was inside the house ran out the front door and contacted police. He was not identified.

A sheriff's helicopter was called to the scene, which helped keep Ritchie contained, said Turner.

The suspect hid under a tarp in the shed located in the backyard.

Shortly after 10 p.m., the K-9 unit moved in. Kilo was credited by the sheriff for locating Ritchie and protecting deputies from a surprise attack.

"Had the deputies been walking by, more than likely he would've bushwhacked them," said Nugent.

Neither the chief nor the sheriff knew how many shots were fired.

The sheriff's deputies involved in the Fort Dade Avenue shooting were Sgt. George Smith, 44, and Deputy Cliff Faulkingham, 32. They also were placed on administrative leave.

Kilo is 5 years old and has been with the sheriff's office for four years, according to a media release.

Ritchie had recently been released from prison, Nugent said. On July 19, he registered as a convicted felon with the sheriff's office.

He is a multi-state offender, with arrests in Florida, Maryland and Virginia.

His previous convictions include charges of gun possession, cocaine possession, resisting arrest and larceny. He also has a multitude of traffic convictions, according to the sheriff's office.

"It just goes to show that none of us are safe out there," Nugent said. "There are bad people out there willing to do terrible things not only to our citizens, but to those who are sworn to protect us."

Reporter Tony Holt can be reached at 352-544-5283 or

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