Milwaukee, WI – Milwaukee Police Officer Matthew Rittner was murdered in the line of duty on Wednesday, when a gunman opened fire on the department’s Tactical Enforcement Unit (TEU) as they were attempting to serve a warrant at a residence.
The incident began at 9:17 a.m. on Feb. 6 when the TEU went to serve a warrant at a home on the 2900-block of South 12th Street, Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales said during a press conference on Wednesday night.
The target of the warrant was wanted for drugs and illegal sale of firearms charges.
As they were serving the warrant, the TEU officers “announced themselves numerous times,” Chief Morales said.
As the officers attempted to breach the door, one of the suspects, later identified as 26-year-old Jordan Fricke, opened fire on them with a high-powered rifle, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
Officer Rittner, 35, was struck in the chest by the gunfire, and was pronounced dead at Froedtert Hospital a short while later.
The TEU arrested Fricke at the scene without further incident, Chief Morales said. One other person was also arrested from inside the residence.
“The members on scene utilized tremendous – and I mean tremendous – restraint during [Fricke’s] apprehension, which is a true testament to their character and their professionalism,” Chief Morales added.
“The Tactical Enforcement Unit and the members of the Milwaukee Police Department are highly-trained men and women who put their lives on the line every day to protect and serve the people of the city,” he continued. “I have no words to tell you how proud I am to be a part of their team.”
Officer Rittner joined the Milwaukee Police Department as a police aide in 2001.
“He had dedicated 17 years of his life to the Milwaukee Police Department and the City of Milwaukee,” Chief Morales said.
Officer Rittner had been a member of the TEU for a decade, and was the recipient of multiple medals and awards during his law enforcement career.
In 2015, he and the TEU helped to rescue hostages from a gunman, the Journal Sentinel reported.
“The tactical team raced down the stairwell to save the hostages from the gunman,” his Medal of Valor commendation read. “This group’s bravery and courage demonstrated their commitment to the citizens.”
Officer Rittner also received an award for meritorious service after he ran into a burning building to rescue a woman who had been held against her will.
He and other TEU members ended up going back into the building a second time to make sure no one else was trapped inside.
“He truly was a professional,” Chief Morales said. “A great human being.”
“This is a very, very, very difficult time for our city, for the Milwaukee Police Department. Obviously for the family that has been affected,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said, according to WMTV. “I am filled with sorrow with this needless loss. At the same time, I am filled with anger over the individual who did this to a police officer.”
Officer Rittner was also a U.S. Marine for eight years, and served three tours in the Middle East.
While serving in Iraq in 2004 and 2005, his vehicles were hit by roadside bombs on three separate occasions, the Journal Sentinel reported.
"We all knew that every time we loaded into those vehicles, it might be our last," Officer Rittner’s platoon sergeant, Ryan Lackey, told the paper. “He was just fearless.”
"He was a Humvee driver for an entire tour that we drove only unarmored vehicles,” Lackey explained. “If you took a direct hit from an IED or RPG, you were dead. We called them ‘suicide sleds.’”
He also fought in a four-and-one-half-hour battle during that tour. One of his fellow Marines was killed during the firefight.
Guillermo Rosales, who commanded the Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Marines, during Officer Rittner's deployment to Iraq in 2008, described him as an American patriot.
“I can see that he had a moral obligation to do the right thing and to serve, give his life to others," Rosales told the Journal Sentinel. “He was a great American, a great patriot.”
"If you were to draw a picture of a United States Marine or draw a picture of a perfect police officer, that would be him," said Max Zaruba, a friend who served alongside Officer Rittner in the military.
Officer Rittner would have celebrated his 36th birthday next week, according to Chief Morales.
He leaves behind his wife, Caroline, and their young son, as well as his mother and brother.
"Matt was probably the happiest person in the world, to be a dad, to have an amazing wife, to be a police officer," Zaruba told the Journal Sentinel. "He was excessively proud of that."
Officer Rittner and Caroline were married at Miller Park, the Milwaukee Brewer’s baseball field, in September of 2017.
"It was kind of awesome," recalled his friend, Michael Wartgow. "Matt got to throw out the first pitch the day they got married. Just an absolutely amazing guy."
Officer Rittner was a sincere person, and you could trust what he said, Wartgow added.
"When Matt told you something, that was his word, his bond," he explained. "He didn't sugar coat much. He was just a factual guy."
Officer Rittner was a beloved member of the Marines for many of the same reasons that he was beloved by his fellow law enforcement officers, Lackey said.
"He was so vibrant and so full of life and it was difficult watching the press conference and hearing the assistant police chief talking about how well loved he was by his fellow police officers," he said. "He was well loved by everyone in the Marines. He was so full of life and so full of fun."
Officer Rittner was a “warrior every day,” Lackey told the Journal Sentinel.
"All I can think of, is this is the life we've chosen," he continued. "We knew the dangers. We knew the risks. We did it because we believed in what we were doing, we believed in each other, in brotherhood, in having each other's backs."
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Milwaukee Police Officer Matthew Rittner, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Officer Matthew Rittner, your life mattered.