K-9 killed protecting officer and inmate who was attacked by prisoners, Virginia officials say

Apr 4, 2024, 8:47 AM

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A K-9 was killed “heroically” protecting a correctional officer, who was responding to a violent attack involving apparent gang members, Virginia prison officials said.

Rivan, a 5-year-old Belgian Malinois, died despite life-saving measures after being “violently and repeatedly stabbed and kicked” by the inmates involved in the assault, the Virginia Department of Corrections said in a news release Wednesday.

Three inmates affiliated with the MS-13 gang attacked another inmate Tuesday inside a housing unit at the Sussex I State Prison, with another inmate appearing to supervise the assault, the department said. Corrections Officer Kharmishia Phillip Fields and Rivan, her assigned K-9, were working in the area and responded to stop the attack and protect the inmates, the department said in a news release.

Rivan sustained injuries but Phillip Fields, a four-year veteran of the department, did not, “due to her training and Rivan’s courageous actions,” the news release said. Corrections officers ended the assault, and the inmate who was attacked was treated for injuries at a hospital and returned to the prison, according to the department.

“The loss of Rivan is truly tragic, but it is important to remember he did not die in vain,” Virginia Department of Corrections Director Chad Dotson said in a statement. “He lost his life while potentially saving the lives of two people, his assigned Officer and an inmate. The VADOC will never forget Rivan’s sacrifice.”

The department’s statement did not identify the inmates who were involved by name but said at least three were verified members of MS-13. All four were in the U.S. illegally when they were arrested and convicted, the department said.

They had been incarcerated on charges ranging from first-degree homicide to attempted rape and counts related to child sexual abuse images.

The department said it intended to seek prosecution of the inmates to the fullest extent of the law and that no further details would be provided amid an investigation.

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin said on social media that the “barbaric members of MS-13 will be held accountable.”

Rivan would have turned 6 on April 30 and had been with the department since 2019. A memorial service is being planned.

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K-9 killed protecting officer and inmate who was attacked by prisoners, Virginia officials say