Prosecutors in Kankakee County have shared details of Sgt. Marlene Rittmanic’s brutal death on Monday, while noting they would be seeking the death penalty for the two suspects in the shooting.
State’s Attorney Jim Rowe said he would be asking federal prosecutors to pursue the death penalty for the suspects, Darius Sullivan, 25 and Xandria Harris, 26.
They have been charged with first-degree murder and first degree attempted murder after shooting two police officers.
The shooting happened at about 9:56 p.m. on 29th December after Sgt. Rittmanic, 49, and her partner, Off. Tyler Bailey, 27, responded to a call at a Comfort Inn in Bradley, which is located about 60 miles south of Chicago.
The officers responded to a call about dogs barking in an unattended vehicle in the parking lot.
Officer Bailey identified the owner of the vehicle, Harris, whom he knew as an acquaintance of Sullivan.
It was confirmed there was a room in Sullivan’s name booked in the hotel.
Sullivan and Harris were located in a room inside the hotel. Officers began speaking with them as they stood outside the door.
As the two officers continued to make enquires, it transpired that Sullivan was wanted for failing to appear in court. He had also previously fled from officers in Bradley who had tried to detain him.
The two suspects exited the room and shot both officers at some point in time, police said in a press release.
On Monday, Rowe laid out what occurred at the hotel during a bond hearing.
The officers knocked on the hotel room door at around 22:13 hours but received no response.
About a minute later, they knocked again, and Bailey identified himself as a police officer, asking Harris to come out of the room to speak about the barking dogs. He said Harris allegedly responded, “Yes.”
Officers knocked on the door three more times, asking Harris to come out. Each time, she said she was coming.
After about a 14-minute wait, Harris started to exit the room but was “squeezing” herself through a small opening, believed to be in an attempt to prevent the officers from taking Sullivan into custody.
Rittmanic and Bailey told Harris to stop blocking the doorway.
He said that Sullivan then came out of the hotel room armed with a 9mm handgun with a drum clip, prosecutors said, according to NBC Chicago.
Rowe said that as Harris struggled with the officers, Sullivan shot Bailey in the head.
Sullivan then turned his attention to Rittmanic and shot her as she sought to distance herself.
Sullivan, whose gun had jammed, chased Rittmanic down the hallway and was able to pin her against a door.
Sullivan attempted to unjam his gun with his right hand and mouth, Rowe said, while also trying to disarm Rittmanic with his left hand.
During the scuffle, Sullivan called out to Harris to “cock the gun, cock the gun,” Rowe said, and they were eventually able to disarm Rittmanic.
The two cowards then stood over Rittmanic, and pointed the guns at her as she lay helpless on the floor, having already been shot once.
Rowe said the sergeant begged Sullivan not to shoot her.
“Sgt Rittmanic was pleading with them to, ‘Just leave, you don’t have to do this, pleas just go, please don’t, please don’t,’” Rowe said. “She was desperately pleading for her life.”
As Harris was holding Sullivan’s 9mm, Sullivan fired two shots from a gun believed to be Rittmanic’s, striking her in the neck area.
After the shooting, Harris gave Sullivan the keys to the car and told him, “You have to go,” at which point Sullivan fled down the hotel stairs and left in a vehicle.
Harris went back to the hotel room, where she got her belongings and her two children and fled,” Rowe said.
The two officers were taken to area hospitals in critical condition; Sgt. Rittmanic later died from her wounds, while Bailey is still in a critical condition, “fighting for his life,” Rowe said.
Sullivan was located by the U.S. Marshals Great Lakes Fugitive Task Force after walking out of a home in North Manchester, Indiana, located about 35 miles west of Fort Wayne.
He remains in custody, awaiting extradition back to Illinois. He is being held without bail.
Harris turned herself in about seven hours after Sullivan’s arrest, accompanied by her attorney.
At her bond hearing, it was explained that Harris “actively assisted and enabled Darius Sullivan throughout the course of the murder of Sgt. Rittmanic and [attempted] murder of officer Bailey, and she is equally responsible.”
Sullivan has been charged with six counts of first-degree murder, two counts of attempted first-degree murder, and one charge of aggravated battery with a firearm.
Harris is charged with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder.
Rowe said the charges filed for Sullivan & Harris include first-degree murder of a police officer and attempted first-degree murder of a police officer.
While Illinois eliminated the death penalty, Rowe said he was submitting a request to the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of Illinois and the U.S. Attorney General to review the case to lodge federal murder charges against both suspects.
Unlike Illinois, the federal government still allows death sentences.
Rowe said this was being done due to legal precedent and “the nature of the offenses.”
Rowe said: “Our State’s Attorney’s Office will now work to ensure these offenders face the harshest justice the law allows, no matter the jurisdiction, and to ensure that the full weight of the criminal justice system is brought to bear upon them and anyone who assisted them”.
Fox News reported that Sgt. Rittmanic joined the Bradley Police Department in 2007and was promoted to sergeant in 2014, according to Lt. Philip Trudeau, a spokesman for the Bradley Police Department.
He added that she had previously spent seven years serving as a deputy with the Iroquois County Sheriff’s Department.
On Monday, the Illinois State Police released a statement on behalf of her family and the Bradley Police Department, praising her for her work and thanking the community for an outpouring of support.
“Marlene believed in people and her ability to speak to the community with respect; meet them where they are in life; try to understand their true needs; and work together to find a solution that produced the least disruption in people’s lives,” the statement read, reported ABC7 in Chicago.
“To her—the job was about making her community safe for everyone, she believed—and stated, “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”
Sgt. Rittmanic, a dog lover, published poet, amateur photographer and film producer for family events, was awarded Law Enforcement Officer of the Year in 2020, the statement said.
“Our world has been turned upside down, obliterated, and hopelessly broken,” her family and colleagues said.
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