Police Chief Bill Kolender told an overflow crowd at the First United Methodist Church that “once again I must try to find words that can make sense out of a senseless situation.”
Addressing survivors of the family of slain police Agent Thomas Edward Riggs, 27, Kolender, in his eulogy, said: “Six months ago in this church I promised the family of Tom Riggs, as we gathered to honor the memory of his brother-in-law, Tim Ruopp, that they would never have to face a greater pain in their lives than the pain they were feeling at Tim’s loss.
“But that turned out to be a promise that could not be kept, and today we are mourning the death of Tom.”
The funeral procession for Riggs began at 8 a.m. when hundreds of peace officers from across the country amassed at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.
Local, state, and federal law enforcement officers, as well as military personnel, were attired in dress uniforms. Kolender led the procession into the church for the 11 a.m. service after meeting a motorcade that stretched a mile, from the stadium to the church on Camino del Rio South in Mission Valley.
Riggs, who was killed during a melee in Encanto Sunday, March 31, was the 26th San Diego police officer killed in the line of duty since 1933.
The Rev. H.W. Mitschke, pastor of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Southeast San Diego and a police chaplain, conducted the service for Riggs in the crowded church.
The chief told mourners that at the Police Academy classmates remembered Riggs as a leader, someone who was always willing to help others.
Riggs was assigned to Southeast San Diego and worked there throughout his career that began in 1979, the chief said.
“He didn’t want to work anywhere else,” Kolender said, adding that even people he arrested had respect for him.
“Tom didn’t give up,” Kolender said. “If there was a job to be done, he did it. In fact, his partners frequently heard him say ‘Let’s just get the job done.’ Getting the job done was Tom’s philosophy of police work. He loved the job and always looked forward to coming to work. Friends remember his cheerful attitude. He was always happy and his good attitude was contagious.”
Kolender said Riggs was never afraid to live his beliefs. “He wasn’t afraid to die for them. We must not, we will not, let his death have been in vain.”
Afterward, the mourners proceeded to the Evergreen Section of Greenwood Memorial Park for a cemetery service. The I-805 freeway was closed to traffic in all southbound lanes for the motorcade to Greenwood. Cremation was to be conducted, with internment in Greenwood Mausoleum.
City Manager Ray Blair and Deputy City Manager Sue Williams were among the 500 witnesses at the cemetery committal, where a Navy rifle team composed of seven women and one man fired three volleys to give a 21-gun salute, and a navy bugler played taps.
Later, an American flag was removed from Riggs’ silver-colored coffin. Eight police officers that served as pallbearers folded the flag, which was given to Riggs’ wife by Kolender. A California state flag was also presented to her.
Riggs was the son of retired police sergeant Charles Riggs, and the brother-in-law of Timothy Ruopp, one of two police officers shot and killed in Balboa Park last September by a man who was being issued a citation for a routine drinking misdemeanor.