Police K9 'Kilo' (ABC ActionNews photo)
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BROOKSVILLE, Fla. - The man who shot a police K9 and then died after exchanging gunfire with officers was a "career criminal", according to Hernando County Sheriff Richard Nugent.
The suspect, 39-year-old Keith Ritchie, was killed afte rhe was tracked down by a 5-year-old K9 officer named Kilo.
The sequence of events began when a Brooksville police officer responded to a home following a report of a domestic dispute. Sheriff Nugent said Ritchie was in the home and fired shots at the officer, who then returned fire.
Ritchie fled on foot.
A helicopter was called in to aid in the search. Ritchie was seen with a gun by a resident in the 600 Block of West Fort Dade Avenue around 10 p.m.
He was tracked down in a yard where he was hiding next to a shed, Nugent said. Kilo went after Ritchie who fired four times at the German Shephard. Kilo was injured by three of the rounds. The dog's bullet-proof vest stopped one of the bullets.
Officers then fired at Ritchie, killing him.
Kilo was taken to Animal Emergency of Hernando County where he was treated. He was released to his handler around 1 a.m. Nugent said the bullet-proof vest, "probably saved his life."
Nugent said he hopes Kilo will make a full recovery and return to duty.
Nugent said Ritchie had been arrested numerous times in other counties and out of state.
The five officers involved in the shootings are now on administrative leave while the investigation continues, which is a routine procedure following shootings.