Riggenbach, 52, was a 15-year veteran of law enforcement in St. Mary Parish, having worked 10 years and eight months with the St. Mary Sheriff’s Office and 4 years, 5 months with the Chitimacha Police Department. Riggenbach also was a U.S. Navy veteran and was a former member of the Bayou Vista Volunteer Fire Department.
Saturday, Riggenbach was shot when responding to a report of an individual with a gun, and two St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s deputies, Matthew Strickland and Jason Javier, were wounded when they responded as backup. Strickland and Javier have been released from the hospital and attended portions of Riggenbach’s services Thursday.
Suspect Wilbert Thibodeaux, 48, is in custody in Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola. He is accused of setting multiple fires at a home on Flat Town Road in Charenton as well as two vehicles and a shed before shooting the first officers to arrive at the scene. Thibodeaux also is accused of killing Eddie Lyons Sr., 78, in the incident.
Riggenbach leaves behind a wife, four children, two grandchildren, his parents and four siblings.
Franklin police Sgt. Terrence Moore, who knew Riggenbach, called the day’s events “one of the greatest honors” for an officer who died in the line of duty. Officers “who gave their all, this is what they deserve and more,” Moore said, noting that being a police officer is a brotherhood.
“The blue line runs deep. This is the definition of love, right here,” he said.
Chitimacha Fire Capt. Kenneth Perry called Riggenbach “a real hero,” while Chitimacha Police Chief Blaise Smith said Riggenbach’s death was a “tragedy for the whole department,” but noted that so many other departments have come to stand by them in their time of need.
Among them were eight tribal police departments from Oklahoma that sent officers to work shifts with and for Chitimacha officers. While their brothers watched the city, every officer from Chitimacha was in attendance to send off one of their own.
Morgan City police Lt. Travis Crouch noted it was “a sad day to lose a brother, but it’s heartwarming to see people turn out to support the family. To see people who didn’t know Rick personally weeping, that’s a strong statement of the brotherhood of the fire, police and emergency services.”
Special Agent in Charge Jimmy Gibson, with the Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs, said the ministers spoke well about Riggenbach’s life.
“He lived his life to serve the community. He will be deeply missed,” Gibson said.
Rep. Sam Jones, D-Franklin, said that because he was a deputy in the early 1970s, this death hits close to home.
“I have so much respect for these guys because I don’t think I could do it anymore. Every day, for no reason, we should thank a policeman, fireman or first responder. We owe them that. I hope that God grants him great favor. I think he will,” Jones said.
Julie Dinger, who was on the funeral procession route, said she remembered Riggenbach from his days working in Bayou Vista for the sheriff’s office.
“When I was working, he would watch me get out (of the store) late at night. That’s how I remember him,” Dinger said.