‘He was a sponge:’ Greenfield School District remembers Matthew Rittner, 2001 graduate

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Data pix.

Matthew Rittner Senior Photo - 2001 GHS Yearbook

GREENFIELD -- The Greenfield School District released a statement on Thursday, Feb. 7 regarding the death of Milwaukee police officer Matthew Rittner. Rittner graduated from Greenfield High School in 2001, where he was a standout athlete.

Police on Thursday, Feb. 7 continued to collect evidence at the home near 12th and Manitoba where Milwaukee Police Officer Matthew Rittner, 35, was shot on Wednesday morning while MPD's Tactical Enforcement Unit served a search warrant for the illegal sale of firearms and drugs. Officer Rittner, a 17-year veteran of the department, died at the hospital. Jordan Fricke, 26, was arrested after police said he fired several rounds.

Officer Rittner began his career with MPD as a police aide in 2001. He was also a Marine Corps veteran. His dedication to his community and country was often recognized.

From tennis to wrestling, the young Rittner was always eager to be a part of a team.

"The academics meant something, as well as competing and being part of a team," said Kevin Murphy, Rittner's wrestling coach.

Kevin Murphy

Murphy, a teacher at Greenfield High School, said he was shocked and saddened to hear of Rittner's passing.

"Hearing Matt -- yeah. It was devastating," said Murphy.

Murphy said the early description of the officer on the news fit three former students -- all wrestlers who went on to become MPD officers. Rittner was active in a variety of sports, including wrestling, football, tennis and the ROTC program. Murphy said it was no surprise that Rittner went on to serve his country as a Marine, and his community as an officer.

After his death, Murphy said the hard part would be talking to current students about the end of this hero's journey.

"Live each day to the best you can. You don't know when it's going to be your last," said Murphy.

Rittner was the first person to graduate from the ROTC program at Greenfield High School and die in the line of duty or in combat. Program leaders were planning a memorial.

Read the full statement from Greenfield H.S. below: 

Officer Matthew Rittner graduated from Greenfield High School (GHS) in 2001. During his time as a student at GHS, Officer Matthew Rittner participated in wrestling and tennis.

Former GHS teacher and tennis coach John Thomsen recalled Matthew as a pleasant, easy-going student with a great attitude.

“Matthew was thoughtful, kind, respectful, hardworking and always positive. As hardworking as Matthew was, he was also able to keep things 'light' and really enjoyed his teachers, coaches, teammates and friends. Matthew's smile and overall positive disposition was contagious. It is no surprise that Matthew chose to serve his country, community and a calling greater than himself,” said Thomsen.

Other GHS teachers, including Kevin Murphy, recalled Matthew as an inspiring student-athlete who was a role model for his classmates and was always eager to learn something new.

“He came into the classroom or into the gym every day focusing on how to get better. He was a sponge and took all of it in. He was willing to work hard to rise to new academic and athletic levels,” stated Murphy.

Superintendent Lisa Elliott, who was a teacher while Officer Rittner attended GHS, as well as a former classmate of Police Chief Alfonso Morales, issued the following statement:

"On behalf of the entire school district community, we extend our deepest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Officer Matthew Rittner of the Milwaukee Police Department. We’re very proud of our graduates for their achievements and contributions to the community, particularly our graduates who serve in law enforcement. We appreciate the tremendous responsibility of our law enforcement officers, and we share in their grief for the loss of Officer Rittner."

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