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Press Release
January 31, 2003
National Guard Member Apparently Commits Suicide after Crime Spree
 
January 31, 2003 SALEM, OR - The Oregon Military Department today announced that Private Chad Ritchie, 21, of Medford, died of apparently self-inflicted wounds. Ritchie, in collaboration with fellow National Guard members Aaron Andrew St. James, 25, and Andrew Lee Patterson, 23, had apparently been involved in a recent string of violent criminal acts in the Medford area. All of the soldiers were assigned as members of the 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry, Oregon Army National Guard. They had recently returned from the battalion’s assignment in Sinai, Egypt, as peacekeepers along the Egyptian-Israeli border. Ritchie and Patterson had been sent home early from Sinai due to disciplinary action.
 
“We are disappointed that these soldiers were unable to rehabilitate his self-destructive pattern. His chain of command did everything within their means to deal with his continued disciplinary issues,” said Major General Alexander H. Burgin, Adjutant General of the State of Oregon. “From disciplinary action, to mental health and peer-to-peer counseling, the officers and non-commissioned officers of his unit did everything they could to help him. The pain and suffering this terrible event has caused his family is very unfortunate, but I was relieved to learn that on his destructive path, Private Ritchie and his associates did not do even greater harm to the people of his community,” he continued.
 
“The Oregon National Guard is a community based organization and reflects many aspects of all Oregon cities. As an organization, we maintain high standards of personal conduct for our men and women, both on and off official duty. We had hoped that Ritchie, Patterson and St. James would respond to these standards and display appropriate behavior at all times. Unfortunately that was not the case,” Burgin concluded.
 
Ritchie and Patterson, who were both assigned as Infantryman, had been found guilty of willfully setting fire to a barracks while assigned in the Sinai and were returned early from the deployment. During the course of his disciplinary action, Ritchie was ordered not to associate with Patterson, and seemed to be on a path of rehabilitation. Recently, the two had apparently reconnected and continued their destructive behavior.
 
The Oregon National Guard has cooperated fully with local law enforcement agencies in the course of this investigation.
 
Currently, Patterson and St. James are being held at the Jackson County Jail. The family of Pvt. Ritchie will be presented a flag at his funeral service by the unit Company Commander, Capt. Eric Riley.
 
All inquiries should be forwarded to Major Arnold V. Strong, Public Affairs Officer, Oregon Military Department, at (503) 584-3885 / (503)580-2645 or Kay Fristad, Deputy Public Affairs Officer, at (503) 584-3917.
 
For more information contact:
 
Major Arnold V. Strong
503-584-3885 / 503-580-2645

Kay Fristad
503-584-3917
cell 503-931-5179