WASHINGTON — As accounts of the horrific shootings of Dallas police officers spread last week, Omaha native Seth Rich made an emotional plea on Facebook for people to stop the hate.
“Too much pain to process,” the 27-year-old wrote. “We have to be better and defend each other more true. A life is exponentially valuable. I have family and friends on both sides of the law. Please, stop killing each other.”
It would be his final post. Just over 48 hours later he was dead, fatally shot early Sunday near his home in northwest Washington, D.C. He worked for the Democratic National Committee as its voter expansion data director.
Police are still investigating the slaying, while loved ones mourn the loss of a promising young man with deep Nebraska roots and a passion for politics.
“He was truly out, I think, to try to save the world,” his brother, Aaron Rich, 33, told The World-Herald. “He was committed to whatever cause he thought was right.”
Services are scheduled for 10:00 a.m. Wednesday at Beth El Synagogue in Omaha.
Rich’s family is well-known at Beth El, where his father was president of the congregation until stepping down earlier this year.
The 2007 Central High graduate jumped into the political arena as a teenager, parlaying a volunteer gig with Nebraska Democrats into a paid position as a campaign organizer.
He interned for then-Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and graduated from Creighton University in 2011.
Rich moved to the nation’s capital, where he worked as a research data associate for the polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner before landing at the DNC.
It was 4:19 a.m. Sunday when police officers on patrol heard shots in the Bloomingdale neighborhood. They found Rich lying on the ground with multiple gunshot wounds, including at least one in the back. He was taken to an area hospital, where he died.
Aaron Rich said it appears that his brother was walking home when he was shot and might have been the victim of a botched robbery, although little is known for certain. Detectives have told the family that he had bruises on his knuckles and face.
“There had been some kind of a struggle, but he also had all of his belongings with him,” Aaron Rich said.
Police are offering a $25,000 reward to anyone who provides information that leads to an arrest and conviction of those responsible. Detectives are examining several recent robberies in the area to determine whether any can be linked.
In recent years, the neighborhood where Seth Rich lived has transformed from an area hit hard by crime into one attracting new homeowners. However, construction work has closed numerous streets and turned many others into dead ends, which some residents say has created a poorly lit labyrinth that traps people and benefits robbers.
Friends and family described Rich as an outgoing, charismatic guy who loved animals.
His brother said he grew up with Newfoundland dogs but wasn’t allowed to keep a canine in his Washington place. So he volunteered to dog-sit for other people or dropped by local dog parks to play with the pooches there.
Rich draped himself in head-to-toe American flag garb for the Fourth of July, adding a new article of clothing to his ensemble every year.
He took a similar approach for Nebraska football games, covering himself in Husker gear and watching with other fans at a D.C. watering hole.
“He was known there for having fun, and I think over-celebrating to where he may have gotten excited enough to break a table once or twice,” Aaron Rich said.
Fellow Nebraskan and Creighton graduate Peter Casey worked with him closely at the DNC and recalled how he worked almost round-the-clock for the 2014 election, running a program to identify and record incidents of people being prevented from voting.
“He was very committed to making sure that everyone had the opportunity to vote and protecting people’s right to vote,” Casey said. “That was what he believed in and what he kept fighting for.”
Retired Central teacher Rita Ryan said Seth Rich never missed a protest or a meeting of the school’s Student Democrats club. “They’d sit there and argue politics for two hours, and I’d say ‘I need to get home to my cats,’ ” she recalled. “They’d say ‘not yet, not yet.’ ”
His death brought an outpouring of condolences, including statements from Sens. Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse, both Nebraska Republicans, and Rep. Brad Ashford, a Democrat. Ashford plans to honor Rich on the House floor later this week.
DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz released a statement mourning his loss: “Seth Rich was a dedicated, selfless public servant who worked tirelessly to protect the most sacred right we share as Americans — the right to vote. He saw the great potential of our nation and believed that, together, we can make the world a better place. He was a joy to have as a member of our team, and his talents, intelligence and enthusiasm will be deeply missed.”
Jane Kleeb, chairwoman-elect of the Nebraska Democratic Party, said in a statement that Rich’s smile will “never be forgotten by anyone in his home state of Nebraska.”
“Our Democratic family grieves the loss of a young Nebraskan who worked on campaigns and stood up on progressive issues,” she said. “Gun violence is a serious problem in our nation and needs an answer to stop this senseless loss of life.”
Aaron Rich said his brother was “an amazing guy who really did believe he could make a difference. Unfortunately, whoever did this took away that chance.”
World-Herald staff writer Emily Nohr contributed to this report, which includes material from the Washington Post.