- The Washington Times - Monday, June 7, 2004

Mourners including the mayor and the police chief filled a church in Southeast yesterday to remember a D.C. police officer who was fatally shot last week.

Investigators said Sgt. Clifton Rife II, 37, was off duty and in street clothes early Wednesday when he was approached in Oxon Hill by Jonathan Washington, 16, who tried to rob him. The two exchanged gunfire. Both died.

“Sergeant Rife was about a life well led,” Mayor Anthony A. Williams told more than 1,000 people at Holy Comforter Catholic Church. Although Sgt. Rife was not Catholic, the service was held at the church on Capitol Hill so as many officers as possible could attend.

“This was a senseless murder by a 16-year-old who had no concept of life and little respect for it,” Monsignor Salvatore Criscuolo, a Metropolitan Police Department chaplain, said during the funeral service. Monsignor Criscuolo noted that Sgt. Rife’s death came just days after D.C. police Sgt. John Ashley, 37, suffered a fatal heart attack while attempting to help a resident retrieve a runaway dog.

“We have two more sergeants in heaven watching over us,” Monsignor Criscuolo told officers gathered for the service. In addition to hundreds of D.C. police officers, there were also uniformed officers from more than a dozen other local and federal police agencies, including the uniformed division of the Secret Service and the U.S. Customs Service.

“Sgt. Clifton Rife was an excellent, excellent police officer who gave his all every day that he worked,” D.C. police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said.

A former U.S. Marine, Sgt. Rife was once assigned to the presidential honor guard. His final assignment with Metropolitan Police Department was with the department’s Major Narcotics Branch, where he focused on drug investigations and prostitution cases.

“He engaged in the invisible work of cleaning up the city’s underside,” said Cmdr. Mark E. Beach, who credited Sgt. Rife with helping to boost prostitution arrests. According to Cmdr. Beach, arrests for such crimes have risen 38 percent in the past year without any complaints of brutality or improper police procedures.

Many of the younger undercover officers who worked with Sgt. Rife on narcotics cases attended the funeral. Photographers were cautioned not to take their pictures to avoid compromising their identities.

“He never made us call him sergeant or sir, it was just Cliff,” said Officer Carlos Mejia, who spoke during the service.

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