MILWAUKEE -- Law enforcement officers, emergency responders and residents lined the route of a procession for a fallen Milwaukee police officer on Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 6.
Officer Matthew Rittner was shot while serving a search warrant with the Milwaukee Police Department’s Tactical Enforcement Unit near 12th and Manitoba around 9:15 a.m. He later died from his injuries at Froedtert Hospital. He was 35 years old -- and a 17-year veteran of the Milwaukee Police Department. He served proudly with the Tactical Enforcement Unit for 10 years after starting with the department as a police aide in 2001. He was also a veteran of the United States Marine Corps.
The procession carried Officer Rittner's body from the hospital to the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office in downtown Milwaukee.
A fire chief and official with the medical examiner's office in Racine County said he was in the area and felt compelled to stop.
"It’s just devastating. Just devastating," said Chief Tom Czerniak, Union Grove-Yorkville Fire Department. "I’ve been a member of rescue squads for 41 years. I deal as a deputy medical examiner, so I see death, and this is just devastating."
City leaders thanked the medical staff at Froedtert for their life-saving efforts. Sadly, it was not enough.
"It's got to be a very difficult time for the family and the other police officers," said John Juern, watched procession.
Juern was drawn to the area near 9th and State during the procession, and like many, he felt the deep sorrow.
"Amazed to see all the police officers that are just standing out here," Juern said.
As the hearse made its way into downtown Milwaukee, Officer Rittner's body was taken past the Milwaukee Police Department headquarters. As the crowd swelled, so did the tears.
Like Juern, Randy Brodhagen said "I just felt I should be here."
"It's just a sad, sad day for Milwaukee," said Brodhagen.
"It's so sad to think that police officers are just doing their job, and look what's happening to them. Obviously it's not fair," said Tom Czerniak.
"I have friends who are police officers, and it's just a hard thing to watch. We've seen their family. Just feel horrible for them," said Kelly Miller.
Miller said being present for the procession and paying respects to this officer "just seemed like the right thing to do."
"When I moved here a year ago, I never thought I would be experiencing this especially now for the third time," said Miller.
Two other Milwaukee police officers, Charles Irvine Jr., 23, and Michael Michalski, 52, died in the line of duty over the summer -- in June and July, respectively.
The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office said an autopsy would be performed Officer Rittner on Thursday.