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Navy Yard guard remembered as loving, steadfast

5:17 PM, Sep 28, 2013   |    comments
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Washington D.C. metropolitan police officers carry the coffin of Richard Michael Ridgell, 52, of Westminster, Md. after his funeral service at The Church at Severn Run, in Severn, Md. (Photo: Jose Luis Magana, AP)

SEVERN, Md. (AP) - Slain security guard Richard "Mike" Ridgell was a loving father and steadfast protector of 2,000 workers at the Washington Navy Yard, where he died maintaining his lobby post to keep a shotgun-wielding man from leaving the building, mourners said at a memorial service Saturday.

The 52-year-old Westminster resident was remembered at a church service in the Baltimore suburb of Severn, near his boyhood home. The funeral was one of the last two memorial services for the 12 people gunned down Sept. 16 at the Naval Sea Systems Command headquarters.

Another service was held Saturday in Washington for network security administrator Sylvia Frasier, 53, of Waldorf.

Ridgell, a Maryland State Police trooper for 17 years before he entered the private security field, was known in Building 197 for his cheerful disposition and strict adherence to security procedures, said Vice Admiral William Hilarides, NAVSEA commander. Ridgell, an employee of Hawaii-based security contractor HBC Management Services, had been working the lobby for about a year when computer technician Aaron Alexis opened fire upstairs with the shotgun he had brought to work inside a bag when he entered the building that morning using a valid badge, according to the FBI.

Hilarides said Naval District of Washington Police Chief Michael McKinney told him that that as police officers rushed upstairs that morning, McKinney told Ridgell, "whatever you do, don't let him out of the building."

The FBI says Alexis shot a number of people on the third and fourth floors of Building 197 before he went downstairs, killed Ridgell and took his 9mm handgun. Alexis used Ridgell's gun to shoot others before he was killed by a U.S. Park Police officer, according to the FBI.

"Mike made the ultimate sacrifice protecting all of us. For that sacrifice, we his Navy family, honor him and we will never forget him," Hilarides said.

Attempting to stop Alexis fit with Ridgell's personality. Growing up, Ridgell would stand up for other children who were bullied, Anthony Dietz, a childhood friend of Ridgell, said.

"Mike was a great man in that regard," Dietz said.

Ridgell grew up in Brooklyn Park, Md. Ridgell and Dietz met in elementary school. They both graduated from Brooklyn Park High.

"He was a giant among men," Dietz said.

Ridgell's middle daughter Megan, 19, urged mourners to take a lesson from her dad's sunny outlook on life.

"Awful things are going to continue to happen and it's so easy to let that negativity and sadness consume you - but you can't. There's always a silver lining, even in the darkest of times, and dad had the amazing ability to always see that," she said.

Ridgell had worked for other government security contractors before joining HBC. His work with DynCorp International from 2007 to 2011 included training Iraqi police officers. He received a combat action badge from the Army for engaging and killing the enemy in defense of a military police unit in Iraq 2008.

Sylvia Frasier, the other victim memorialized Saturday, had worked in information technology at NAVSEA since 2000. She earned a master's degree in information systems in 2002.

An interfaith prayer service is scheduled Sunday at the Siva Vishnu Temple in Lanham for all the Navy Yard victims.

Ridgell's family has announced a memorial fund for his children through the PNC Bank branch in Hampstead, Md.

"He was one of the finest, finest men I've ever had the privilege to know," Dietz said.

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