Officer Richard Crittenden
When word spread around White Bear Lake that a North St. Paul police officer had been shot, Christine Crittenden had a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach.
Her husband, 57-year-old Officer Richard Crittenden, had gone to work that morning, in lieu of a week-long Canadian hunting trip with his neighbor.
Throughout the morning of September 7, 2009, Christine heard whispers around town about the shooting, but when she saw the two unmarked police cars parked outside her home, she knew her gut instinct to be true: it was Richard who had been shot.
While responding to a domestic disturbance call, Officer Crittenden found himself under attack by the man he was there to investigate. The man, who was in violation of a protection order, charged towards Officer Crittenden with a flaming rag in an attempt to burn his estranged wife.
Officer Crittenden pushed the woman and her daughter to safety -- but doing so led to his demise.
The suspect struggled with Officer Crittenden, grabbed hold of his gun and shot him once in the head, killing him instantly.
Another responding officer from nearby Maplewood Police Department shot and killed the suspect, but not before she, herself, was shot in the wrist.
Officer Crittenden, aka "Critter" and "Grandpa Rick", as he was commonly referred to by family and friends, began his career in law enforcement later in life, after his son entered the Navy.
As a then-single father, he wanted to devote his life to his family before joining the ranks of the boys in blue, where he ultimately served for 15 rewarding years.
He began his law enforcement career with the Hennepin County Water Patrol before joining the Wabasha County Sheriff's Office, and finally settling in with the North St. Paul Police Department in 2000.
Everyone who knew Rick loved to be around him, because he was a gentle giant, says North St. Paul Police Chief Tom Lauth.
Rick stood 6'3" tall, 250 lbs., and "His presence was immediate.
He had a huge laugh and the community loved his sense of humor," he says.
His family would agree, Rick was a "very outgoing guy and quick with the comebacks," says his son, Rick Jr.
Rick's neighbor, and great friend, Bob Erlander, considered Rick his "brother from another mother," as he jokingly told AMW.
"He was just a great guy," says Bob.
Bob first met Rick through his neighbor, Christine, who had started dating Rick in the late 1990s.
Rick and Christine married within two years of their first date, and were head over heels in love with one another.
Rick would rarely go anywhere without Christine, because as he told Bob, "I waited so many years to find Christine.
I'm not leaving her."
Instead of going somewhere without Christine, she and Rick, along with Bob and his wife, would all take Caribbean and Alaskan cruises with one another.
Before meeting Rick, Christine might not have been as adventurous as she was with him at her side.
"I came out of my shell with him," she says.
Together, they'd go on walks, drive through the Minnesota countryside, go horseback riding, and visit with their six grandchildren who they both tremendously adored.
When they weren't taking care of their grandkids at home, they'd take them to the science museum, the Mall of America, or to any other number of fun, kid-oriented places throughout the area.
Whether or not the children were his or not, Rick's good friend and supervisor, Sgt. Charles Kunkel, says Rick loved them all the same.
"He was verbose and outspoken, and he loved kids.
He always had something nice to say to kids, and he'd give them sticker badges whenever he had the chance," says Charles.
According to Charles, Rick always stood up for the weak and made sure everyone was treated fairly at all times, which is what made his death at the age of 57 even more tragic.
"I'd always ask him, 'Why don't you just retire?', and he'd say "I'm not ready yet.
I still like catchin' bad guys!"," says Charles.
To the very end, "Critter" died a hero, doing what he loved -- all the while, leaving North St. Paul a better place.
Officer Crittenden is survived by his wife, son, stepdaughter, and six grandchildren.