OAK CREEK -- Milwaukee Police Officer Matthew Rittner's public visitation and funeral were held at Oak Creek Assembly of God Church on Wednesday, Feb. 13. The service was followed by Police Honors and a procession through the City of Milwaukee and to Krause Funeral Home in Brookfield.
It was a truly emotional service -- filled with stories about Officer Rittner. We heard many personal stories about Matthew Rittner, a husband and father who loved to laugh.
For nearly four hours, thousands came to say goodbye. Countless tears were shed as family and friends shared memories of a hero's journey. One of those who spoke was Rittner's partner, Officer Matt Murray.
"I have a small audio clip of Matt's laugh. I hope the mic will pick it up," Murray said as he paused to let the audio play. The brief recording played Rittner's laugh and him saying, "It's too cold out here for this."
Photos of Rittner were projected on large screens. They showed Rittner in happier times, in uniform and out.
Rittner's brother-in-law, Alex Gibbs, spoke about the love Rittner shared for his wife, Caroline, and son, Kent.
"The way he would play with his son, and the way Kent would laugh was magical. Matt loved my sister so much. I never worried about her when Matt was around," Gibbs said.
Friends also told stories of a man who loved his country, community and his team, the Milwaukee Brewers.
In particular, Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales shared one story about Matthew Rittner that he said summed up who he was. It was about the moment when he came to the home to share condolences with Rittner's wife, Caroline.
"I rushed over to the house, walked in and was greeted with a huge hug from Caroline," the chief said. "As this was occurring, out of the corner of my eye, I see a 100-pound pit bull coming right at me. What do you do? What do you say? I hoped it was a nice dog -- which it was. Jumped on me, licked me, strapped onto my leg -- you can only imagine what it was doing. I still didn't think nothing of it. I still didn't think what the meaning behind that was -- until I was ready to leave. Matthew's mother-in-law asked me if I would take the dog with me. Curious, I asked why. Her response was, 'Matt rescued him during a search warrant. He was abandoned in the basement of a house.' Who in the heck does that? A deed like this."
Wednesday's funeral took place on what would have been Rittner's 36th birthday -- one week after he was killed in the line of duty, after he was shot while executing a search warrant near 12th and Manitoba.
"Matthew will live inside of each of us. You will always be family. God bless you," Chief Morales said.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett attended an event on the city's south side on Wednesday morning and reflected on this day of mourning for the city.
"This is a very difficult day obviously for the Rittner family, for the police department, and for the entire city. It's a somber day. It's a moving day -- a very emotionally moving day. And it's a hard day that we have to get through," Barrett said. "But I think when you look at our community, I have been very impressed by how people have supported the family, supported the department and supported the city -- not only for this, but also for the death of Mr. Rodriguez (the DPW worker killed on the job on Friday, Feb. 8). Losing two city workers in 48 hours was something I never thought I'd see in many years. It was a rough, rough, rough, rough time."