LOCKPORT, N.Y. (WIVB) – A veteran Lockport Police officer is heading into retirement after a career that included a brush with death.
K9 Officer Steven Ritchie has spent most of the past 29-years working with police dogs in Lockport and his department, along with family, friends, and law enforcement colleagues, gave him a big sendoff Monday afternoon.
Fellow officers took time to honor Officer Ritchie at the end of his shift.
“It was sort of bittersweet. It would never be easy whether I wanted to go or not, but seeing everybody out here it was pretty tough not to shed a tear or two,” Ritchie said.
He may be best remembered for a brush with death one Sunday morning. Ritchie and Chief Larry Eggert were shot in the line of duty in 2003 while attempting to arrest a man wanted for attempted murder. Ritchie was hit twice and as the chief describes it, Ritchie died four times that night before he got to ECMC.
Lockport Police Chief Larry Eggert said, “Here’s a man who came back from death. He came back from severe paralysis because of his wounds, and worked 11 more years after that, and worked a year in intensive physical therapy because that’s how much he liked his job. And nowadays, how many people can you find that would have that level of dedication?”
Both recovered, but Officer Ritchie had to receive a long, grueling regimen of rehab before he could return to full duty.
“I’m blessed,” said Ritchie. “Every day is a blessing for me. To know, no matter what happens in my life, I know that I’ll overcome it.”
Chief Eggert said, “[He's] strong-willed. Just somebody that really enjoyed serving the people of Lockport.”
Not only were human officers and other friends there to greet Ritchie, a group of working K9s stood by to send him off into retirement.