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Use of deadly force justified in two incidents, state attorney rules

BROOKSVILLE — Law enforcement officers involved in two separate shootings that resulted in the deaths of two armed suspects in August were justified in their actions, the State Attorney's Office has concluded.

Officers acted reasonably and lawfully when they used deadly force to defend themselves against Robert Capkovic and Keith Ritchie, assistant state attorney Richard Ridgway wrote in two memos to State Attorney Brad King.

Ridgway reviewed investigative reports by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and concluded that no criminal charges should be filed.

Both cases were "pretty straightforward," Ridgway said Thursday.

"If there's a close call, we'll take it to a grand jury," he said. "But when you have multiple witnesses whose testimony is consistent, and consistent with the physical evidence, and it's clear (officers) did what they had to do, we say so and put an end to it."

According to Ridgway's memo, the FDLE report and previously released details, here is what happened in the incidents:

On the afternoon of Aug. 2, Hernando Sheriff's deputies went to Capkovic's home on Joyner Avenue in Spring Hill after a Bank of America representative called to report that Capkovic had threatened to kill himself if the bank tried to foreclose on his house.

Failing to get a response after about half an hour, deputies entered the house and found Capkovic crouched in a bedroom holding a 12-gauge shotgun. Capkovic, 62, fired and narrowly missed a deputy, and then shot twice more as deputies retreated.

After more than five hours of attempts to negotiate with Capkovic, authorities shot teargas into the bedroom. About 15 minutes later, a tactical team entered the house and found Capkovic in a bathroom armed with a handgun.

Officers fired bean bag shells in an attempt to disable Capkovic, who started shooting. Deputy Thomas Valdez fired, and then Deputy Lance Origon, armed with a rifle, shot and killed Capkovic. Origon was hit in the forearm and later recovered.

Authorities recovered the shotgun, two handguns and nine spent rounds Capkovic had fired.

The initial entry into the house was legal given the concerns about Capkovic's wellbeing, Ridgway wrote. Defending themselves later by returning fire was also a lawful response, he wrote.

• • •

Two days later, Brooksville police responded to a home on Bell Avenue for a call that turned out to be a suspected domestic violence incident.

A woman told officers that her boyfriend, 39-year-old Keith Matthew Ritchie, had hit her and then ran away.

Sgt. Jason Matheson found Ritchie walking on Fort Dade Avenue. When Matheson asked Ritchie to confirm his identity, Ritchie pulled a revolver from his waistband, pointed it at Matheson and started walking toward him. Matheson drew his own weapon and the two men fired almost simultaneously. During an ensuing chase, each man fired another shot. It's unclear how many times Ritchie pulled the trigger, but the number of rounds recovered suggested he reloaded, the report shows.

Ritchie fled into and then out of a nearby home, and the owner called police. The Sheriff's Office sent canine units and its helicopter to help with the search.

One of the dogs, Kilo, found Ritchie hiding behind a shed. Ritchie fired, striking the dog four times. Officers surrounded Ritchie, who crouched down with the gun to his head. He ignored commands to drop the gun and then pointed the weapon at officers. Brooksville Sgt. Randal Orman and Officer Stephen Greenwood and sheriff's Sgt. George Smith and Deputy Cliff Faulkingham fired nine rounds. Faulkingham's rifle shot struck Ritchie in the head, instantly killing him.

Kilo, a 5-year-old German shepherd, recovered and was back on the job two weeks later.

"When (Ritchie) refused to put down his gun and then pointed it at officers, especially in light of his previous shooting toward Sgt. Matheson and the canine, the fear that he would shoot at the officers was reasonable and the use of deadly force was authorized (by statute)," Ridgway wrote.

The Sheriff's Office is conducting its own internal affairs investigation into both incidents, said Sgt. Donna Black, department spokeswoman. The Brooksville Police Department is doing the same for the Ritchie shooting, Chief George Turner said.

Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or tmarrero@sptimes.com.

Use of deadly force justified in two incidents, state attorney rules 09/30/10 [Last modified: Thursday, September 30, 2010 9:13pm]
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