Milwaukee, WI (WITI) — The community came together Friday evening, Feb. 8 to honor fallen Milwaukee Police Department Officer Matthew Rittner. A vigil held at Zablocki School near 10th and Oklahoma, was packed with supporters to say thank you.
“This is the third officer in eight months. It’s hard,” said Tracey Dent, community activist.
Hundreds gathered for the vigil.
Milwaukee city leaders joined police officers, neighbors, friends and family to remember fallen Officer Rittner.
Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales says support for the department is needed now more than ever.
“The purpose of this vigil is to show the community is also part of this. We are all family,” said Chief Morales.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett shared the emotional scene that played out inside Froedtert Hospital on Wednesday, Feb. 6 — the day Rittner was killed.
“His brother and sisters from the SWAT team and one by one they went in to pay their respects. You had to be there to see how much love and respect there was for Officer Rittner, and it’s important for us to appreciate,” said Barrett.
Among those in the audience were strangers and dispatchers. Nancy Ray was working the morning Rittner was shot. She came to show her support for a family she doesn’t know.
“I can’t even imagine,” said Ray. “I can’t imagine what they are going through right now.”
“It’s phenomenal to see whether they are strangers or their friends or family. Tonight, everyone here is family,” said Jon Henney, served with Rittner.
Jon Henney served two tours overseas with Rittner. He says after something so tragic, Friday’s vigil represents the city Officer Rittner knew and loved.
“It really reflects him. It reflects who he was. It didn’t take long but he touched you and he imprinted on you,” said Henney.
The vigil ended with the simple request from police officers — when you can — say, “thank you.”Those in attendance were given the opportunity to do just that.
More than saying thank you, the end of the vigil was a chance for the community to come together. Many talked well after the event was over. A reminder police officers don’t just protect us, they are our neighbors.
Rittner’s funeral is set to take place on Wednesday, Feb. 13. No other details have been released.