Police remember late officer Richard Crittenden 10 years later


Richard Crittenden

A memorial statue of Richard Crittenden and his granddaughter was installed in 2010, paid for by donations. It remains outside the North St. Paul Police Department. (Bridget Kranz/Review)

Richard Crittenden’s badge hangs on a wall in the North St. Paul Police Department. (courtesy of Tom Lauth)

Coworkers of late North St. Paul police officer Richard Crittenden are remembering his life this month. September marks ten years since he was fatally shot while on duty. 

Those who knew Crittenden, who died at 57, described him as a “gregarious fellow” with a great sense of humor.

“He always had a twinkle in his eye,” said North St. Paul Police Chief Tom Lauth, who was in the same role back in 2009 when the tragic shooting happened. “He had a lot to give to younger officers.”

Through the years, friends and colleagues have hosted motorcycle memorial runs and other remembrances for Crittenden, who served on the city’s police force for nine years. The day he died is one that many will never forget.

“That’s not something you ever get out of your memory,” Lauth said. “Just a date and time and everything you’ll always remember.”

 

10 years ago 

On Sept. 7, 2009, Crittenden and Maplewood police officer Julie Olson responded to a domestic disturbance call at a North St. Paul apartment. There, a man wrestled away Crittenden’s gun and fatally shot him. Lauth said Crittenden was the first officer in the city to be murdered in the line of duty. 

A decade after his funeral, coworkers are still grieving. 

“It’s just a blur of just responding to one of the worst things in life that you can think of happening,” Lauth said. “It’s one of those instances that just changes life in an instant. It’s just something you never forget that will always be there.”

Olson, who responded to the call with Crittenden that day, is now a detective with the Maplewood Police Department. She said weekly coffee with Crittenden and other officers was a bright spot in her day, where the two got to know each other outside of responding to special calls together.

“Rick was a great guy to work with,” Olson said. “He was always out there, willing to do anything for anybody and everybody he could, constantly giving.”

Crittenden had two children and six grandchildren, one of whom is represented as part of a statue holding hands with her grandfather outside the North St. Paul Police Department.

Friends said he left a legacy with his family, the city and law enforcement officials.

“Richard left his imprint on the department, big and wide,” Lauth said. “And it will always be there.”

The police station displays Crittenden’s badge, No. 933, and other memorial items. Each year on Sept. 7, officers gather in his memory and wear honorary pins. 

In 2014 Gov. Mark Dayton designated the stretch of Highway 36 that runs through North St. Paul as Officer Richard Crittenden Sr. Memorial Highway.

Lauth said Crittenden’s name remains on the Wall of Honor at North St. Paul PD and was inscribed on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Neighbors took to social media to memorialize the city’s loss. 

“I think about him every September and every time I pass his statue,” one person said. “And all those who are in law enforcement — including my son. All those who put their lives on the line to protect all of us.”

Others, like Olson, prefer to quietly remember him. 

“I don’t do anything formal, but for me it’s like I remember him every single day,” she said. 

 

Commitment to service 

Officers touched by the loss remain dedicated to their work, however difficult it can be. 

“After losing Rick, I wasn’t going to let the bad guy win,” Olson said. “He wouldn’t want somebody to stop doing a career that he loved because of what happened, and I wasn’t going to let what happened define law enforcement for me.”

Lauth said even ten years later, Crittenden’s death still plays a role in decision-making when it comes to training and response tactics. He said training takes on a more serious note, especially when dealing with use of force. 

“Because we did have the ultimate tragedy happen, that is always fresh in our minds and our trainers’ minds,” he said. 

Lauth said police work can be unpredictable and dangerous, but that people who served like Crittenden make the career honorable. 

“Tomorrow is a promise to no one,” Lauth said. “But what the men and women of law enforcement can go out and do makes this a nice profession.”

 

Not forgotten 

Though September may remain a somber month for those who knew Crittenden, or were affected by his life and death, it’s not the only time he’s remembered

“The officers that I knew that worked with him thought he was just great and had valuable info,” Olson said. “The citizens really enjoyed him.”

Lauth says he hopes Crittenden’s death wasn’t in vain, because his life surely wasn’t. 

“Hopefully his sacrifice will help somebody in the future, if it hasn’t already,” he said.

 

–Amy Felegy can be reached at afelegy@lillienews.com or 651-748-7815.

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