FRANKLIN — Two officers were wounded and a third killed after responding to Saturday’s arson in Charenton. All three lived in the Morgan City area. A civilian was killed prior to the incident as well.
Sgt. Rick Riggenbach, a Chitimacha police officer, was killed. St. Mary deputies Jason Javier and Matthew Strickland were wounded.
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, said Chitimacha Chief Blaise Smith, who said he was with Riggenbach when he died.
Smith described Riggenbach as an outgoing man who was career oriented and was a family man. He leaves behind three children and several grandchildren, Smith said.
Deputy Jason Javier, 23, has been with the St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Department for the last two years.
Wounded Deputy Matthew Strickland, 24, worked briefly for the department in 2011 before rejoining in mid-January.
Wilbert Thibodeaux, 48, who is in custody in Iberia Parish for safety reasons, set multiple fires to another person’s home, two vehicles and a shed before shooting the first officers to arrive at the scene, Fire Marshal Butch Browning said. Thibodeaux is accused of killing Eddie Lyons Sr., 78, in the incident as well.
Chitimacha officers were responding to a report of an individual with a gun, and the deputies were responding as back up, said Stephen Hammons, State Police Troop I public information officer.
Thibodeaux had been arrested Tuesday by Riggenbach and another Chitimacha police officer for disturbing the peace. However, Smith said he did not believe the two incidents were connected.
Smith said Thibodeaux was armed with “enough ammo to harm anyone he wanted to,” saying his pockets were filled with a mix of buckshot and other ammunition.
Eddie Lyons Sr., 78, who was found dead in the mobile home, was not related to the suspect, Smith said.
To the Lyons family, Sheriff Mark Hebert said: “Today is about you also and your loss and your grief.”
The sheriff asked the community to “continue to pray for all those who put their lives on the line every single day of their career.”
The deputies, who were injured with buckshot, still are recovering in their respective hospitals.
Riggenbach’s “heroic actions did prevent other people from being injured,” said Hammons.