MILWAUKEE — A 17-year police veteran was shot and killed as he served a warrant on Milwaukee’s south side Wednesday, becoming the city’s third officer to be killed in the line of duty in eight months, officials said.
Assistant Milwaukee Police Chief Michael Brunson said at a news conference that the 35-year-old officer, Matthew Rittner, was part of a Tactical Enforcement Unit.
“This is the third time in eight months that I’ve had to stand at a podium and talk about the loss of a life of a police officer,” Mayor Tom Barrett told reporters. “We need all residents of this community, all residents of this state, to be thankful and appreciative of every single law enforcement official in this state.”
Jordan P. Fricek, a 26-year-old Milwaukee man was in custody, according to a Milwaukee Police Department press release posted on social media.
Brunson didn’t release details of the warrant being served when the officers made contact with two subjects “and shots were fired.” Rittner was struck and was rushed to Froedtert Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
“I am filled with sorrow over this needless loss and at the same time I am filled with anger at the individual who took the life of this police officer,” Barrett said. The mayor said the officer “was doing his job” and “working to make our city safe” when he was killed.
Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said in a statement that he joins “all of Wisconsin in mourning the loss of one of our brave law enforcement officers. Those who put on the uniform every day put their safety at risk to protect others and to save lives.” Kaul said the state Department of Justice is assisting in the investigation, and the Law Enforcement Death Response Team is supporting the Milwaukee Police Department.
Numerous officers gathered at the hospital. On Wednesday afternoon, a procession of police vehicles with lights flashing accompanied the officer’s body from the hospital to the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office, where an autopsy is planned for Thursday.
Rittner and his wife, Caroline, were reportedly married in Sept. 16, 2017 at Miller Park. A Milwaukee Brewers tweet from that day congratulates the couple. On Wednesday, the team sent out condolences on social media to the family.
Six months ago, Officer Michael Michalski was fatally shot while trying to arrest a convicted felon wanted on drug and domestic violence offenses. Last June, 23-year-old Officer Charles Irvine Jr. was killed in a squad car crash during the high-speed pursuit of a suspect. Irvine was the first Milwaukee officer killed in the line of duty since 1996.
Experts say serving warrants are dangerous operations for police, primarily because the officers are entering unknown territory. Last week, narcotics police officers serving a search warrant on a house in Houston came under fire as soon as they entered the home, and five were hurt. The suspects were killed.