“Courageous” K-9 killed while protecting officer from MS-13 gang members during Virginia prison attack, officials say

April 4, 2024
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A Virginia police dog was stabbed and killed during an assault by MS-13 gang members at a state prison, Virginia corrections officials said Wednesday

The K-9, named Rivan, was accompanying corrections officer Kharmishia Phillip Fields on Tuesday when three inmates at Sussex I State Prison attacked another inmate. The three attacking inmates are affiliated with the MS-13 gang, the Virginia Department of Corrections said, and appeared to be supervised by another inmate. 

Phillip Fields and Rivan responded to the attack. While they worked to “protect the inmates and restore order,” Rivan was “violently and repeatedly stabbed and kicked” by inmates, officials said. 

Rivan died from his injuries at the facility despite attempted lifesaving measures, the Department of Corrections said. The dog was five years old and would have turned six at the end of April. Rivan has been part of the K-9 unit since 2019, and officials said a memorial service for the dog will be held.

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Rivan.

Virginia Department of Corrections


Phillip Fields had no serious injuries, officials said, because of her training and “Rivan’s courageous actions.” 

The attacked inmate was transported to a hospital for treatment and later returned to Sussex I State Prison. 

“The safety of our corrections team is our agency’s top priority,” said VADOC Director Chad Dotson in a statement. “Officer Phillip Fields has the agency’s full support during this difficult time and I personally wish her well in her recovery. … The loss of Rivan is truly tragic, but it is important to remember he did not die in vain. 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.” 

Officials said that the corrections department plans to “pursue prosecution” of the inmates involved in the attack. Officials did not name the involved inmates, but said that they were from El Salvador and Guatemala. All four were in the United States illegally at the time of their arrest and conviction, officials said, and were incarcerated for charges including first degree homicide, attempted rape, kidnapping and child pornography charges. Three of the four are verified members of MS-13, officials said. 

An investigation into the assault is ongoing. 

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