"He used to listen more than he spoke," Bakri said. "I was very surprised to learn that he is the suspect in the attack."
Rigby, the father of a 2-year-old boy, was slain Wednesday afternoon outside the Royal Artillery Barracks in the Woolwich area of south London while horrified bystanders watched in the busy city known for its decorum.
The Ministry of Defense said Rigby, who joined the army in 2006, was a machine gunner posted in Cyprus, Afghanistan and Germany before becoming a recruiter who assisted with duties in the Tower of London.
Nicknamed "Riggers," he was an important member of the Corps of Drums who was known for his good nature and wit, and his love of his hometown soccer team, Manchester United, according to fellow soldiers.
"He was one of the battalion's great characters, always smiling and always ready to brighten the mood with his fellow Fusiliers. He was easily identified . . . on parade by the huge smile on his face and how proud he was to be a member of the Drums," Warrant Officer Class 1 Ned Miller said in a statement issued by the ministry.
Rigby's family said he would "do anything for anybody," always looked out for his sisters and took a "big brother" role with everyone he met.
"He was a loving son, husband, father, brother, and uncle, and a friend to many," the family said in a statement issued by the ministry.