There was his boss, a congresswoman. The neighbor in a wheelchair, whom he helped plow out of the snow after a storm, was also there. His favorite bartender. His co-workers. His old friend from summer camp. His council member. His three roommates he met on Craigslist. His neighbors who never met him but remember him riding his bike in front of their homes.
More than 100 people attended a vigil Wednesday evening in Bloomingdale to remember the life of Seth Conrad Rich — the 27-year-old Democratic National Committee staffer shot dead in the Northwest D.C. neighborhood early Sunday morning. Rich was shot several times, at least once in the back, about 4:20 a.m., a block away from his home. Police said they have no suspects, witnesses or motive, but they are looking at whether Rich could have been slain in an attempted robbery.
“He has touched more lives than I could have imagined, and this is evidence of that,” Justin Snyder, a friend, said at the vigil that took place in front of Rich’s rowhouse on the 2100 block of First Street NW. “I’m not sure what else to say. I’m still in shock.”
They remembered Rich as someone who fervently rooted for his hometown Nebraska sports teams, a friendly man who could turn any conversation into a fiery debate and a worker who cared deeply about ensuring that everyone had the opportunity to vote in elections. He had been involved in politics since high school, and he was working on a project at the DNC to help voters easily find their polling places.
“He was one of the few people in this town who realized that just because people belong to a different political party from you, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t treat you with respect,” said Melissa Ortiz, a neighbor who worked with the Ted Cruz presidential campaign. “We realized we had this shared passion for voter registration. He thought that was the greatest thing ever.”
Rich was known for his elaborate outfits. On the Fourth of July, he had dress head to toe in clothes covered with an American flag pattern. On game days, he would root for his teams wearing oversize, silly hats. When he was stuck late at night working in the office, he would dress up as a panda to make his co-workers laugh.
He was a regular at Lou’s City Bar in Columbia Heights, where he would go multiple times a week to unwind. Joe Capone, the general manager of the bar, brought a glass of Rich’s favorite beer to the vigil, a Bell’s Two Hearted Ale. He said he was having a plaque made in Rich’s honor to be placed on the bar stool where he would always sit.
His roommate, Eric Baker, said the last time he saw Rich was just Saturday afternoon. Rich was inside the house, right at the doorway, as Baker was entering the house.
“He just said, ‘Welcome home, you get door service now,” Baker recalled laughing.
The vigil attendees wrote letters to Rich’s family back in Nebraska and tried to make sense of the violence that took his life. D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5), whose district includes Bloomingdale, said he would work to address the uptick in crime in the neighborhood and help ensure that Rich’s death was not in vain. There has been increased police presence in the neighborhood, McDuffie said, but residents are telling him that they are not seeing them. Residents want the police to be more visible in their neighborhoods, McDuffie said.
“There’s too much violence going on in D.C., particularly in Ward 5. It has got to stop,” McDuffie said. “In the end, let’s figure out how the community can come together to prevent this from happening again. One life lost is one too many.”
The DNC’s chairwoman, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), was also in attendance and said she and her staff have been sharing memories of Rich these past few days, remembering him as a devoted public servant.
“Seth’s life was not lived in vain. Seth Rich lived his life fully every single day for 27 years,” she said. “Each of us at the DNC were absolutely privileged to work with him, to fight side by side with him every single day.”