MILWAUKEE (AP) — Thousands of mourners turned out Wednesday to say goodbye to a fallen Milwaukee police officer and military veteran remembered for living “an extraordinary life.”
The funeral for Officer Matthew Rittner, a 17-year veteran of the force, was held Wednesday at Oak Creek Assembly of God Church in suburban Milwaukee on what would have been Rittner’s 36th birthday. Rittner was killed while serving a search warrant a week ago.
“Believe me, it hurts,” Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales said. Rittner was the third Milwaukee officer killed in the line of duty in eight months. Before that, the department had gone more than two decades without a similar death. Morales pledged that Milwaukee police will not let the fallen officers “die in vain.”
Mourners spoke of Rittner’s love for his family and the city, and his passion for the Milwaukee Brewers, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. He and his wife, Caroline, were married at Miller Park, the Brewers’ stadium, in 2017.
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“Matthew lived an extraordinary life as a son, as a brother, as a husband, as a father, a United States Marine, Milwaukee police officer, and a friend to many, many,” Pastor Jerry Brooks said. Rittner served two tours in Iraq.
Rittner’s fellow officers stood in silence, their heads bowed, by his flag-draped casket as the funeral began.
“We sit here with heavy hearts, trying to make sense of this. I can tell you this. It doesn’t make sense. It is not right,” said Milwaukee Police Lt. Derrick Harris, commander of the specialized patrol division.
But mourners also remembered Rittner’s laugh, which echoed through the church on a recording played by his former partner, Officer Matt Murray.
“This was the guy you wanted to show up when your family was in trouble,” Milwaukee Police Chaplain George Papachristou recalled one officer saying of Rittner
Morales recalled rushing to the Rittner family home after the officer’s death. He hugged Rittner’s wife and then saw a 100-pound pit bull coming at him — it was the officer’s dog, one he rescued while serving a search warrant.
“He was abandoned in the basement of a house,” Morales said of the dog.
Rittner leaves behind his wife, a young son and extended family.
A suspect has been charged with first-degree intentional homicide and other crimes in Rittner’s death. Jordan P. Fricke, 26, remains jailed with bail set at $1 million.