Memorial Service for K9 Officer Blue
On Sunday, August 7, 2022, K9 Officer Blue of the Niceville Police Department was killed in the line of duty. He and his handler, Sergeant Phillip Ritcheson, were traveling on Highway 85, south of State Road 123. At 5:51 pm their police pickup truck was struck in the rear when a van switched lanes. The truck overturned and came to a stop on the south shoulder of the highway. Sgt. Ritcheson suffered serious but non-life threatening injuries, and the van driver was treated for minor injuries. K9 Blue succumbed to his injuries and was escorted to the Bluewater Bay Animal Hospital by the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office.
The police department and the Niceville community are mourning the loss of one of their two police dogs. It is tragic for the Niceville police department, especially Sgt Ritcheson and his family, as Blue was also a part of their family.
After the accident, deputies with the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office escorted the fallen K-9′s body to Bluewater Bay Animal Hospital. Deputies laid an American flag over Blue's body and carried him inside the animal hospital while other deputies lined the parking lot and saluted Blue.
Sergeant Ritcheson spent several days in ICU before moving to a regular room. Blue was a 7- year old Belgian Malinois who served with the Niceville Police Department for five years. His end of Watch was Sunday, August 7, 2022.
Chief David Popwell stated: “It is with a saddened heart that the Niceville Police Department has lost K-9 Officer Blue, to a traffic crash on Hwy 85 while he was reporting for duty at 17:51, on 8-7-2022. His handler and friend, Sgt. Phillip Ritcheson was transported to the Ft. Walton Beach Hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
The Niceville police department stated in a press release: "The Niceville Police Department appreciates all the help that has come from the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Department, Ft. Walton Police Department, Eglin Fire and Medical, Florida Highway Patrol, Niceville/Valparaiso Fire Departments, and Okaloosa EMS … We appreciate all the love and support that has been shown."
According to Niceville Police Chief David Popwell, service arrangements are still in the works with Blue receiving full honors. The memorial is planned for August 26 at 10:00AM at the Niceville Community Center.