Columbia, SC – Columbia Police Department (CPD) Master Police Officer Tony Rhinehart died of natural causes on March 2.
The 61-year-old officer was off-duty when he suffered a fatal medical emergency, the CPD said in a press release on March 6.
Officer Rhinehart passed away at his home, according to his obituary.
His exact cause of death was not immediately released.
Officer Rhinehart, a Columbia native, earned numerous certifications at the Midland Technical College as he worked towards his goal of becoming a law enforcement officer.
He began working for a security company in the early 1980s and later served on the University of South Carolina’s police force, according to his obituary.
Officer Rhinehart’s “dreams became reality” when he was hired by the CPD in 1995, the tribute read.
“Tony later went on to retire after seventeen (17) years of dedicated service, but only managed to make retirement last for seventeen (17) days,” according to his obituary. “He loved his city so much, that he rejoined the police force and took back his role as a Master Police Officer.”
Officer Rhinehart served the CPD for 11 more years after coming out of retirement, ultimately dedicating 28 years of his life to his community.
He was assigned to the CPD Traffic Safety Unit under the Special Operations Bureau at the time of his death, according to his department.
“As a Master Police Officer, Tony took pride in protecting his community and was a faithful advocate for justice,” his obituary read. “He received numerous accolades over the years for his outstanding work in the neighborhoods he protected. The integrity, bravery, and continued sense of commitment that Tony possessed will be remembered and cherished forever.”
CPD Chief W.H. “Skip” Holbrook described the longtime officer as a true professional who was patient and a skilled listener, the department said in a Facebook post on Friday.
“In the last 10 years, Tony has written over 15,000 traffic citations and worked more than 1,000 traffic accidents,” Chief Holbrook said during Officer Rhinehart’s funeral service. “Out of the 15,000 tickets, he only wrote 32 warnings! Rhinehart cared about the safety of drivers around the City. So, to honor him, please buckle up, slow down and obey all traffic laws no matter where your travels take you.”
Officer Rhinehart leaves behind his wife, Lynn, as well as his daughters, Gabrielle and Tonisha, according to his obituary.
He is also survived by his mother, sister, uncles, aunts, and many friends and extended family members.
Officer Rhinehart was laid to rest on March 9.
Our department is mourning the loss of a dedicated #ColumbiaPDSC officer. Master Police Officer (MPO) Tony Rhinehart passed away last week. Here's the news release with more information. pic.twitter.com/RpgMonysfe
— Columbia Police Dept (@ColumbiaPDSC) March 6, 2023
As #ColumbiaPDSC prepares a final salute for Master Police Officer Tony Rhinehart today, we'd like to say thank you for all the kind messages. Here are a few of the heartfelt condolences from the community. #Columbia912 pic.twitter.com/zsNWjiCEbV
— Columbia Police Dept (@ColumbiaPDSC) March 9, 2023
Funeral arrangements announced for #ColumbiaPDSC Master Police Officer Tony Rhinehart. We miss you #Columbia912 https://t.co/ZiTzq4HjPL pic.twitter.com/6basDz3HGv
— Columbia Police Dept (@ColumbiaPDSC) March 7, 2023
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Columbia Police Department Master Police Officer Tony Rhinehart, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.