"He was self-sacrificing in that he was totally willing to be the goofball," says Seth Rich's friend of 17 years
As they gathered to lay him to rest on Tuesday, friends of Seth Rich, the 27-year-old Democratic National Committee staffer who was fatally shot over the weekend in Washington, DC., remembered him as “honest” and “self-sacrificing.”
Rich, who worked on the DNC’s voter expansion efforts, was shot and killed Sunday morning while walking home through Northwest D.C., according to a statement from police, which adds that he was talking on the phone to his girlfriend at the time of the shooting.
Even though his wallet, keys and cell phone were still on him, police suspect Rich may have been killed during a botched robbery attempt, and investigators say it appears Rich tried fighting off his killer, according the statement.
“He was self-deprecating and always willing to be the butt of a joke,” explains Corey Lynch, Rich’s friend since they were 10 years old. “He liked that. He wanted that. He wanted other people to feel comfortable. He was self-sacrificing in that he was totally willing to be the goofball, and the purpose of that was just to make us all smile … to make us laugh.”
A funeral service was held Tuesday morning for Rich. Afterward, his friends gathered for lunch, where they shared stories.
“He was the least apathetic person you’d ever meet,” Lynch tells PEOPLE. “He was a very supportive friend, and I think that was just in his nature to be that way. He was very fun and very lighthearted. Even when we spoke about politics, he somehow remained balanced. He’d take a step back and see both sides. He was also really good at connecting with people. If he was in a room, by the end of the night, everyone in that place would know who he was.”
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Rich, who grew up in Nebraska, attended Creighton University before moving to Washington, D.C. for work. Lynch says his friend was the kind of man who’d stand up for anyone, even perfect strangers.
“He would stand up for anybody,” Lynch says. “He may have been the butt of our jokes, but it was because he was able to take it with such grace. He loved that attention. He loved being the punching bag, and he took it in stride. We were never malicious about it. He was just so outgoing. He enjoyed the limelight, but was never conceited about it.”
Lynch says he was in awe of how Rich cared more about others than himself: “That’s just who he was,” he says.
Another of Rich’s friends, Miles Mawby, wrote on Facebook, “We all love you and miss you terribly brother,” adding, “It’s not the same without you, but recounting your endless stories makes it a little better.”
In another Facebook post, Mawby wrote that he’s “still trying to wrap my head around the fact that you’re gone,” and calls Rich “one of the most honest and dependable people I ever knew.”
Comments Mawby: “The fact that we got to go out for a much needed (and long overdue) night on the town just Friday makes me feel both lucky to have spent that time with you and heartbroken all at once. The world just won’t be the same without you lighting it up.”
Rich was attacked in the early morning hours on Sunday, and police said gunshots were heard around 4:20 a.m.
Rich was reportedly found conscious and breathing and was taken to a local hospital, where he died from the several gunshot wounds he sustained.
Police still have no suspects or potential motives for the shooting.
Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 202-727-9099 or through text message at 50411. A reward of up to $25,000 is being offered.