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Rivan, End of Watch: April 2, 2024
Agency News

VADOC Mourns K-9 Killed by MS-13 Gang Members While Protecting Officer

April 03, 2024

The Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) is mourning the line of duty death of Rivan, a K-9 killed while heroically protecting its assigned Corrections Officer, staff, and inmates at Sussex I State Prison.

On Tuesday, April 2, three inmates affiliated with the MS-13 gang who are housed at Sussex I State Prison viciously attacked another inmate within one of the facility’s housing units. A fourth inmate appeared to be supervising the brutal assault.

Corrections Officer Kharmishia Phillip Fields and her assigned K-9 Rivan were on duty and working in the area at the time of the attack. Officer Phillip Fields and Rivan responded to stop the attack, protect the inmates, and restore order. Rivan was violently and repeatedly stabbed and kicked by the inmates and later tragically died at the facility while VADOC staff attempted lifesaving measures. Officer Phillip Fields, a trained K-9 handler and 4-year veteran of the Department, sustained no serious injuries due to her training and Rivan’s courageous actions. Order was restored by Officer Phillip Fields, responding Corrections Officers, and Rivan’s actions. The attacked inmate was transported to a local hospital for injuries sustained in the attack and was later returned to the facility.

The inmates involved in the malicious attack are from El Salvador and Guatemala and at least three are verified members of MS-13. The Department has confirmed that all four of the inmates were in the United States illegally at the time of their arrest and conviction. The inmates are incarcerated for several charges, including first degree homicide, attempted rape, kidnapping/abduction, malicious wounding, use of a firearm in commission of a felony, child pornography charges, grand larceny, and possession of a Schedule III Drug. The Virginia Department of Corrections intends to pursue prosecution of these inmates to the fullest extent of the law.

“The safety of our corrections team is our agency’s top priority,” said VADOC Director Chad Dotson. “Officer Phillip Fields has the agency’s full support during this difficult time and I personally wish her well in her recovery. The heroics she displayed during this brutal assault demonstrate her courage, her commitment to public safety, and her care for the safety of the inmate population. I thank her for her service to the Commonwealth.”

“The loss of Rivan is truly tragic, but it is important to remember he did not die in vain.” Director Dotson continued. “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.”

“This also underscores the importance of the VADOC’s K-9 program,” Director Dotson said. “K-9s play a vital role at our facilities. They protect our correctional staff. They protect our inmates and also deter aggressive inmate behavior. The Virginia Department of Corrections never wants to lose one of its K-9s in the line of duty, but their important role in ensuring long-term public safety for the Commonwealth is undeniable.”    

Rivan, a Belgian Malinois who would have turned 6 on April 30, joined the Virginia Department of Corrections in 2019 and was certified in July 2019. Rivan came from a K-9 family with a strong public safety tradition. His father worked for a police department in Southwest Virginia and his mother worked for the United States Secret Service.

The VADOC will hold a memorial service for Rivan. Details are still being arranged.

This is an active and ongoing investigation. No additional information will be provided while the investigation continues.

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