Rites today for slain police officer
FRANKLIN (AP) — A funeral service was set today for the Chitimacha tribal police officer killed in shootings that also wounded two sheriff’s deputies and left another man dead.
The service for Sgt. Rick Riggenbach was scheduled for 2 p.m. at Crossing Place Church in Franklin, followed by burial at a Morgan City cemetery.
Wilbert Thibodeaux, 48, of Charenton, was arrested on murder and arson charges Saturday after he allegedly gunned down an elderly resident, Eddie Lyons, and set fire to a mobile home before shooting the three officers.
One of the wounded St. Mary Parish sheriff’s deputies, 23-year-old Jason Javier, was released from the hospital Tuesday. The other, 24-year-old Matthew Strickland, was released from the hospital Wednesday. Strickland visited the sheriff’s office after being released from the hospital and is still recovering, said sheriff’s office spokeswoman, Traci Landry.
Landry said Javier visited his colleagues at the sheriff’s office Wednesday.
“He’s in good spirits,” she added.
Riggenbach, 52, was a four-year member of the tribal police department who previously served 10 years as a St. Mary Parish sheriff’s deputy.
A spokesman for the Louisiana State Police said earlier this week that Riggenbach acted heroically, saving others from harm. However, authorities have released few details about the deadly encounter, saying they don’t want to jeopardize the investigation.
Dan Cregan, a retired pastor and family friend who will give a eulogy at Thursday’s funeral, said Riggenbach was a West Virginia native and Navy veteran who moved to Louisiana in the early 1980s to take a job in the oilfields and worked as a boat captain. But he always wanted to be a police officer, Cregan said.
“He was a reliable, faithful, loyal person,” Cregan said. “I think he was genuinely a hero. He died so that others may live.”
Police said the officers were responding to a report of an armed man walking down a road near the Cypress Bayou Casino in Charenton when Thibodeaux shot them. Thibodeaux also was wounded during the confrontation.
Investigators found the burned body of Lyons, 78, of Charenton, after extinguishing the blaze at the mobile home.
Riggenbach is survived by his wife, Bonnie, three daughters and a son.
“He loved Louisiana and he loved his family,” Cregan said. “He told his wife he wanted to be buried in the state he loved.”
Reporting by Zachary Fitzgerald contributed to this story.