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Hero Down: Merrill Police Officer Riley Kurtz Dies From Medical Issue

Wausau, WI – Merrill Police Department (MPD) Officer Riley Kurtz died Jan. 3 due to a medical issue, according to police.

The 24-year-old officer, known by his nickname of “Smiley Riley,” passed away at Aspirus Hospital, according to his obituary.

The MPD announced Officer Kurtz’s death in a Facebook post on Jan. 4.

“It is with great sadness the Merrill Police Department announces the untimely death of active duty Police Officer Riley Kurtz, due to medical complications,” the post read. “At this time we request continued prayers for his families. We will have more to share as we work through this difficult time.”

His exact cause of death was not released.

In addition to his two years of service with the MPD, Officer Kurtz also served more than one year at the Kronenwetter Police Department (KPD) and approximately six months as a Marathon County Sheriff’s Office reserve deputy, WSAW reported.

The KPD described him in a Facebook post as “a great officer and an even better person.”

“He was one of the good ones, kind, patient, funny, outgoing,” Officer Kurtz’ obituary read. “He was always there for anyone who needed anything. He truly cared for others which led directly to his life of service as a police officer.”

He and his longtime girlfriend, Hope, were excitedly planning their lives together, his family said.

“Riley will be extremely missed by all those who knew him,” the tribute read.

In addition to Hope, Officer Kurtz also leaves behind his parents, sister, nephew, grandmother, aunt, uncle, cousins, and many friends and extended family members.

Officer Kurtz will be laid to rest Jan. 15.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Merrill Police Department Officer Riley Kurtz, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.

Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

View all articles
Written by Holly Matkin

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