End of Watch: The death of Niceville Police K-9 Blue

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Can you imagine living in a town that is surrounded by water on three sides? Niceville, Florida, is one such town. Is it a waterside community? Yes. Is it a tourist destination? Of course. Does it have a small-town feeling? Definitely. All of the above – Niceville is a nice place to live.

K9 Blue
Niceville, Florida Police Department
End of Watch Sunday, August 7, 2022

Niceville is a town of 12,000 and has a small police department – only 33 officers. They are more like a family. One of the family members is Sergeant Phillip Richardson. Sergeant Richardson, 42, has been a Niceville Police Officer since September 19, 2014, and he loved it! He loved working patrol, helping to keep Niceville safe.

But it wasn’t until 2017 that he found his REAL love in law enforcement. That was when he partnered with Blue. Blue was a seven-year-old Belgian Malinois. That was when he found out what real dedication to policing was like, and when he found his best friend. Because, unlike most assignments in the law enforcement profession, you don’t take off your K9 like you take off your gun belt. Being a K9 officer requires 24-7 work. The dog works with you, goes home with you, plays with your kids, goes on vacation with you. A K9 and his handler are constant companions. 2017 was the last time Phillip saw a 40-hour week on his job!

Besides loving his job and going to work, Blue also loved kids. Not only Phillip’s five kids, but ALL kids! When Philip and Blue were invited to give a talk at a school, it was a treat for all. Niceville Police Chief David Popwell said he, “would just lay on his side and let the kids rub all over him.”
At the Niceville police headquarters, everyone loved Blue.

On March 18, 2022, Sergeant Richardson and Blue participated in USPCA Region 1 Patrol and Detector Field Trials. Blue placed 1st in Narcotics Detector – Outdoor and 9th in Narcotic Detector – Overall in the 2022 USPCA Region 1 Patrol and Detector Field Trials. K9 Sergeant Ritcheson and K-9 Blue scored 98% on indoor searches and a perfect 100% on vehicle searches. K-9 Sergeant Ritcheson and K-9 Blue would be invited to participate in the USPCA National Trials in Georgia later this year.

So…he was not only everyone’s favorite at the police station, but he was a valuable asset to the department. The team of Ritcheson and Blue were able to confiscate numerous dangerous drugs off the street and put a lot of bad guys in jail. The population of the Okaloosa County jail rose when Blue worked. What a contribution!
Then it turned bad. On Sunday, August 7, 2022, the team of Ritcheson and Blue were headed into work in their patrol truck at 5:55 PM. They were driving South in heavy traffic on U. S. Highway 85 – the main drag through town – when Sgt. Richardson slowed to change lanes. A 40-year-old lady driving a van crashed into the police truck, causing it to overturn on the side of the road. Blue was killed in the crash. Sgt. Ritcheson suffered internal injuries, including broken ribs, that sent him to the intensive care unit of the HCA Fort Walton-Destin Hospital for six days. The driver of the van suffered minor injuries.
The body of K9 Blue was escorted to Bluewater Bay Animal Hospital with a K9 Unit accompanying him.

An outpouring of love and support followed. Media outlets from miles around reported the incident. Videos were shown on television and social media sites.


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