Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Man killed, police dog wounded in another Hernando shootout with deputies

Deputy Steven Miller says his canine partner, Kilo, is resting at home after being shot in the jaw, neck and leg by a suspect on Wednesday. The suspect then shot at law officers, who returned fire and killed 39-year-old Keith Ritchie.

Hernando County Sheriff’s Office

Deputy Steven Miller says his canine partner, Kilo, is resting at home after being shot in the jaw, neck and leg by a suspect on Wednesday. The suspect then shot at law officers, who returned fire and killed 39-year-old Keith Ritchie.

BROOKSVILLE — From around the corner of a house, the Hernando County canine deputy could hear his partner, Kilo, engaged in a desperate struggle.

The police dog had tracked a man to the back yard of a house at 617 Fort Dade Ave. around 10 p.m. Wednesday. The man was yelling that the German shepherd was biting him.

Then, Deputy Steven Miller heard gunshots.

"I was a little freaked out," Miller said Thursday morning. "I tried to get (Kilo) out of there as quick as I could and get him back to me."

As Kilo bolted back to Miller, deputies flooded the back yard. After a brief gunbattle, the suspect, Keith Ritchie, was dead. He was the second man to be shot to death by Hernando deputies in three days. Robert Capkovic was killed in his Spring Hill home Monday after a standoff.

Kilo, a 5-year-old four-year veteran of the Sheriff's Office, was shot in the jaw, neck and leg. A fourth bullet hit Kilo's bulletproof vest near his neck. No officers were injured.

Sheriff Richard Nugent said Thursday that Kilo was "groggy" but "a trouper" and that he was recovering with his handler.

"We're hopeful it will be a full recovery," Nugent said. "He wasn't feeling any pain when I saw him. He's a tough dog."

Nugent identified the deputies involved in the shooting as Sgt. George Smith, 44, and Deputy Cliff Faulkingham, 32. Brooksville police Sgt. Jason Matheson, 32, Sgt. Randal Orman, 36, and Officer Stephen Greenwood, 54, were also involved.

All have been placed on administrative leave at their respective agencies, which is standard practice with officer-involved shootings. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has begun an investigation, which is also standard practice.

The trouble started at 8:15 p.m., when Brooksville police responded to a domestic violence call involving Ritchie, 39, at a home at 564 Bell Ave. Nugent said Ritchie had punched his fiancee in the face.

A neighbor, Heather Pauliot, said she heard the couple screaming at each other Wednesday evening and then saw Ritchie twice try to hit the woman with his car as she walked along the sidewalk.

"I've heard them yelling and screaming stuff at each other before," Pauliot said. "But I just tried to stay out of it."

Brooksville police began searching for Ritchie, and Matheson came upon a man he thought was the suspect in a parking lot on W Jefferson Street. The officer told Ritchie to identify himself, Nugent said, but Ritchie began shooting.

Matheson returned fire. Neither was hit.

Ritchie then ran and hid in the back yard of the house on Fort Dade Avenue. Police, joined by deputies, searched for him with the help of a sheriff's helicopter equipped with heat-sensing equipment.

Sometime after 10 p.m., Kilo found Ritchie hiding under a tarp in a shed. Kilo latched onto Ritchie and as the two struggled, deputies said, the dog was shot.

Within seconds, deputies had opened fire at Ritchie, who was pronounced dead at the scene. Nugent said results from Ritchie's autopsy were set to come in later in the day.

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

Ritchie had been serving two years of drug offender probation. Called a career criminal by the sheriff, Ritchie had a lengthy criminal history that included at least six arrests in Florida and a criminal record in Maryland and Virginia.

Most recently, Ritchie pleaded guilty in January 2009 to possession of cocaine, possession of a concealed weapon by a felon, and fleeing or attempting to elude a law enforcement officer.

"Obviously, he was looking for a fight," Brooksville police Chief George Turner said.

At the apartment Ritchie shared with his fiancee, the woman's sister blamed the tragedy on the couple's drinking problems. Amy Repoza said Ritchie and her sister had been drinking shots of Crown Royal throughout much of the day. Then, as they usually did, the two got into an argument.

"When they drink," Repoza said, "things get a little crazy."

Repoza said she doubted that her sister called the authorities because "she didn't want him going back to jail. He was facing 15 years" if he violated the terms of his probation.

Repoza said her sister wasn't available for comment.

The last time a Hernando County police dog was shot in the line of duty was about 10 years ago when a handler mistakenly shot the dog during an arrest.

Miller said Kilo, one of five dogs in the agency, was resting at home but was eager to return to work. It wasn't clear when Kilo would be able to return to active duty.

"He's just pacing back and forth" in his kennel, Miller said. "He wants to be with me."

Joel Anderson can be reached at or (352) 754-6120.

Man killed, police dog wounded in another Hernando shootout with deputies 08/04/10 [Last modified: Thursday, August 5, 2010 11:00pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa International Airport morphing into a mini-city unto itself


    TAMPA — By the end of the 2026, Joe Lopano wants Tampa International Airport to function as its own little city.

    Artist rendering of phase two of the $1 billion construction expansion of Tampa International Airport. The airport is transforming 17 acres of airport property that will include at least one hotel, retail and office space and a gas station, among other things.
[Courtesy of Tampa International Airport]
  2. William March: Sheriff Gee denies his resignation was timed to help GOP


    Sheriff David Gee is denying through spokesmen that he planned his 2016 re-election and subsequent resignation to help Republicans hold the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. But Democrats say it seems obvious he did.

  3. Trump meeting with G-7 leaders after going on offensive


    TAORMINA, Italy — In the Middle East, President Donald Trump was feted with pageantry, the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Israel seemingly in competition to outdo the other with the warmth of their welcomes and the depth of their pledges of cooperation.

    From left, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.S. President Donald Trump and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni arrive for the group photo at the G7 Taormina summit on the island of Sicily on Friday  in Taormina, Italy. [Getty Images]
  4. Perspective: As the toll climbs, advocates bring renewed attention to Florida gun violence


    Times Staff Writer

    Like most 12-year-old girls, Ra'Mya Eunice loved slumber parties.

    The Empire State Building in New York City was bathed in tangerine light last year to mark National Gun Violence Awareness Day. It was part of the Wear Orange campaign led by the non-profit Everytown for Gun Safety. [Courtesy of Everytown for Gun Safety]
  5. Lawyer says Kushner willing to cooperate with investigators


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is willing to cooperate with federal investigators looking into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, his attorney said.

    In this May 23 photo, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, left, and his wife Ivanka Trump watch during a visit by President Donald Trump to Yad Vashem to honor the victims of the Holocaust in Jerusalem. The Washington Post is reporting that the FBI is investigating meetings that Trump's son-in-law, Kushner, had in December 2016, with Russian officials. [AP photo]