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Officer Matthew Rittner was shot and killed while executing a search warrant on February 6, 2019. In addition to serving 17 years as a member of the Milwaukee Police Department in Wisconsin, Officer Rittner was a U.S. Marine Corps veteran of the War on Terror. He is survived by his expectant wife and child.
Lt. Kristin Felsman remembers pulling back into the station on the day Milwaukee Police Officer Matthew Rittner died and seeing two young girls with stuffed animals tucked underneath their arms running toward her from across the street.
Just hours earlier, Rittner, a 35-year-old former Marine and a member of the department’s Tactical Enforcement Unit, was gunned down while serving a search warrant at a home where illegal firearms sales were believed to be occurring.
“Before a lot has even been said, two girls came over to comfort us with teddy bears that were theirs,” Felsman, Rittner’s commander, told Fox News. “The outpouring of support – it really makes you realize you do touch people without even knowing you are doing it.”
Matthew Rittner, pictured here in the center, served in the Marine Reserve Unit Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Marines, based out of Milwaukee. He was an infantry rifleman and later achieved the rank of sergeant during his 8 years of service, which included two tours in Iraq, the Department of Veterans Affairs says. (Courtesy Caroline Rittner/Milwaukee Police Department)
OFFICERS KILLED IN THE LINE OF DUTY IN 2019
Felsman said Feb. 6 was “very difficult” for everyone at the Milwaukee Police Department. But in the days, weeks and months since, the community rallied to honor and spread the legacy of a decorated officer known for putting smiles on people’s faces and risking his life to save others.
“He really cared about everything he did,” Felsman said. “He was just an amazing officer, his attitude was so good and he never had a bad word for anybody.”
Rittner was recognized numerous times during his 17-year career with the Milwaukee Police Department. In May, Rittner posthumously was given Medal of Honor and Purple Valor awards, in recognition that on the day of his death, he “exhibited exceptional courage and bravery to accept the sole responsibility to breach the door in order to apprehend a violent criminal and protect Milwaukee and its residents,” the department said.
Matthew Rittner spent 17 years with the Milwaukee Police Department and was a member of its Tactical Enforcement Unit. (Courtesy Caroline Rittner/Milwaukee Police Department)
Four years prior to that, Rittner was awarded the department’s Medal of Valor after helping rescue two people taken hostage during a home invasion robbery, Felsman said. When negotiations went south, Rittner and other officers grabbed a shield and confronted the hostage-taker, who ended up shooting himself.
“We call it a ‘fatal funnel,’” Felsman said. “Running down a stairwell to shots of gunfire coming at you. It’s pretty unnerving.”
Rittner, however, was used to being shot at.
Before he was a police officer, Rittner was a sergeant in the Marines, completing two tours of duty in Iraq. During one of them, his unit was involved in a four-hour firefight. Rittner also rode in vehicles that were struck by improvised explosive devices, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs said.
Matthew Rittner and his wife, Caroline, were avid Milwaukee Brewers fans. (Courtesy Caroline Rittner/Milwaukee Police Department)
When he wasn’t risking his life, Rittner was an avid Milwaukee Brewers fan and season ticket holder – and even married his wife, Caroline, at Miller Park in 2017, throwing out a ceremonial first pitch in front of thousands of fans ahead of a game against the Miami Marlins.
The baseball team this season set up a locker at their spring training facility in memory of Rittner. Inside, they placed a jersey with his name and the number 10 on it, denoting him as the Brewers’ ceremonial “10th man.”
“I want players to ask, ‘Who’s this?’ Then they get the answer that this man died protecting the City of Milwaukee,” Dan Larrea, director of team travel, told MLB.com. “I want it to be something for players and staff to talk about so they know what the City of Milwaukee is all about.”
Rittner is survived by his wife and their young son. Three days after his funeral, Caroline Rittner announced she is expecting another child – a girl.
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Caroline Rittner held a gender reveal party with her husband’s unit at the Milwaukee Police Department after finding out that she was pregnant.
A GoFundMe page set up for the family has raised nearly $100,000 and Felsman says a police union SUV had to make four or five trips to Rittner’s home to deliver all the gifts the public has donated to Caroline, her son and growing daughter.
“It’s extremely joyful because clearly, Matt’s legacy will live on,” Felsman said. “It’s also very sad because Matt won’t be here to see his daughter.”
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