Rod Ditrich has been identified as the Thurston County Sheriff’s deputy who shot Joel Anthony Nelson, 29, of Lacey during an incident Tuesday night.
Nelson died near the intersection of 93rd Avenue Southeast and Tilley Road. According to the Sheriff’s Office, Nelson had punched Ditrich in the face, stolen the deputy’s SUV and crashed the vehicle into a passing car before Ditrich shot him.
Ditrich, 50, sustained minor injuries when Nelson punched him repeatedly in the face and head, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Jaxx, Ditrich’s K-9 partner, was in the deputy’s SUV when Nelson stole it and crashed it into the passing car. Jaxx wasn’t injured.
Ditrich has been employed with the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office since May 1997, and previously worked for the Lacey Police Department. Before beginning a career in law enforcement, Ditrich served for 10 years in the Army.
He has worked as a K-9 handler for the Sheriff’s Office for eight years. He and his former K-9 partner, Rex, helped re-establish the program in Thurston County after a 16-year hiatus.
Jaxx and Ditrich began working together a year ago, and Rex retired from service Dec. 31.
In addition to being a K-9 handler, Ditrich spent 10 years on the county’s SWAT team and six years working with the Narcotics Task Force. He was recently awarded the Pat Sutherland Law Enforcement Officer of the Year by the Olympia Kiwanis Club.
Ditrich has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation into the shooting, which is being conducted by detectives from the Lewis, Mason and Grays Harbor county sheriff’s offices. The Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office will then determine whether Ditrich will be charged criminally for his actions.
Once that process is complete, the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office will conduct an internal investigation into whether any policies were violated.