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Brookhaven PD officer attacked by some unlikely culprits


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  • Brookhaven PD officer attacked by some unlikely culprits


    Brookhaven K-9 officer and dog recovering after wasp attack

    A Brookhaven police K-9 officer and his dog were recovering Thursday after being ambushed by an enormous swarm of yellow jackets Wednesday just as they tried to collar a hit-and-run suspect.

    Officer John Ritch was stung at least 50 times and almost immediately had a severe reaction that impaired his breathing, said Major Brandon Gurley of Brookhaven police.

    “He’s now talking to us — he is just in a lot of pain,” Gurley said. “He described the hundreds or thousands of yellow jackets that come out and how they went up his pants, his shirtsleeves, in his nose and his mouth.”

    The reaction was so dangerous that police transported the officer to Grady Memorial Hospital without waiting on an ambulance, Gurley said. Grizz, a Belgian Malinois, was transported to an emergency vet in Sandy Springs as a “precautionary measure,” because they didn’t know how often it had been stung, Gurley said.

    Ritch was released from the hospital Thursday afternoon, and Grizz was already home recovering, Gurley said.

    The two veterans and other officers were searching the woods near I-285 and North Druid Hills, where the hit-and-run suspect had fled after colliding with a DeKalb County police car on the interstate, Gurley said.

    According to DeKalb County police, officers attempted a traffic stop, but the driver refused to pull over and hit a patrol car before jumping out of his car and running. The Brookhaven K-9 and Richt were brought in to assist with the chase, police said.

    The K-9 officer had spotted the suspect in a ravine where he had fallen. The officer and the dog were walking around the ravine when the yellow jacket nest was stepped on, prompting the critters to attack, Gurley said.

    “I don’t know if it was the handler or the dog, but one of them stirred them up,” Gurley said.

    Yellow jackets, an aggressive type of wasp, build both exposed aerial types and concealed nests, often underground, which can have thousands — or tens of thousands — of denizens. They have lance-like stingers with little barbs and will sting perceived aggressors repeatedly.

    The venom is generally only dangerous to people who are allergic to it, but Gurley didn’t think that was the case with this officer. He had been stung nine times earlier this year in another yellow jacket encounter with little ill effect, Gurley said.

    The suspect, Brian Gutierrez, 37, was arrested and charged with obstruction, reckless driving, failure to maintain a lane hit-and-run, and fleeing and attempting to elude, a DeKalb police spokeswoman said.


    Officer stung by bees relapses; K-9 partner gets first-aid kit

    The Brookhaven police officer who was hospitalized after a yellow-jacket attack relapsed Sunday and was taken to urgent care, police reported Monday.

    Medical staff treated and released Officer John Ritch, the K-9 officer who was stung more than 50 times by the highly aggressive wasps last Wednesday, said Maj. Brandon Gurley of the police.

    Ritch and Grizz, his Belgian Malinois, were both initially treated last week when one of them —it was unclear who was responsible — stepped on a yellow-jacket nest when tracking a suspect in the woods.

    Both Grizz and Ritch are back home recovering on Monday, Gurley said. The department announced Monday that a motorcycle group has taken a special interest in Grizz, who ended up at an emergency vet in Sandy Springs after being stung last week.

    We Ride To Provide has donated first-aid kits to the dogs of the Brookhaven Police K-9 Unit, Gurley said.

    The group raises money to assist and honor police dogs, providing them with first-aid kits to combat wasp and snake bites and other trauma, and coming together for their funerals. It has credited the first-aid kits with saving K-9 lives, the first being from a snake bite in Oconee County.

    The first-aid kit can also be used by the human handler, Gurley said, although it was unclear if Grizz or other dogs would have to share in case of another simultaneous stinging.

    Such a case could become a true test for man’s best friend.

  • #2
    Man that's very unlucky. Prayers to Officer Ritch and his K9.


    • #3

      Brookhaven officer recounts attack by yellow jackets

      A Brookhaven police officer and his dog were looking much better Tuesday as he told the tale of the yellow-jacket attack that sent them both to emergency care.

      Officer John Ritch also revealed one of the ongoing questions of whether he or his partner was responsible for stirring up thousands of the relentless wasps that immediately covered them with stings.

      They both released the stingers when they caused a a minor landslide when descending a rocky hill to handcuff a fugitive in a gully they had tracked down minutes before on Sept. 25.

      “When the rocks broke loose it opened up a large cavern of yellow jackets,” said Ritch at a press conference. “I didn’t know I was getting stung because I was being stung so many times.”

      Ritch, who received at least 80 stings, said the insects invaded his mouth and throat. He then looked over and saw yellow jackets covering “Canine Grizz,” his 9-year-old Belgian Malinois — already down in vegetation, covered with the wasps that were attacking his ears, eyes and mouth.

      There were thousands of wasps enveloping them both, Ritch said. Fortunately DeKalb police officers arrived to take over the arrest of a man being sought for allegedly committing a hit-and-run accident on I-285.

      That allowed Ritch and Grizz, still covered with yellow jackets, to flee for help.

      “We had probably a 100-yard run,” Ritch said. “It was becoming very difficult to breathe simply from the blocked airways from all the yellow jackets in my mouth and nose.”

      He said they were still being swarmed by thousands when they reached the other officers at which point Ritch said he started to blackout.
      The police put him in the back of a patrol car for refuge — apparently the yellow jackets were primarily interested in him and Grizz, not other officers — while another canine officer took care of Grizz, Ritch said.

      On Tuesday, it would have been hard to tell they had been in an attack. Ritch handled the press conference with aplomb and Grizz looked up at him, badge dangling from around his neck, and nary a hair out of place.

      It was clear they were both glad to be back at work.


      • #4

        Yellow jackets are a little different from your average wasp. The first ones to attack you leave a pheromone that tells the rest where to attack. That's why they didn't attack the other officers - because there was no scent to tell them too.

        I've experienced a very similar encounter with a hive of those bastards. I have never hurt so bad in my life. I had close to 40 stings - I can't even imagine what 80 would be like.


        • #5
          Oh that is just too awful to think about!
          Prayers for a full recovery for both the Officer and K-9.
          Originally posted by JasperST
          "The fail is strong with this one."

          Originally posted by mdrep
          It's not sporting old chap. Like shooting fish in a barrel. You may only take a shot at a poser or troll if they are running and you are properly licensed.

          What do you think we are, a bunch of barbarians?


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