Death penalty sought in hotel killing of officer “pleading for her life”

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A prosecutor said Monday he’ll ask the Justice Department to review the case of two people charged in the shootings of two police officers at a northern Illinois hotel, and also asked federal prosecutors to pursue a death sentence, CBS Chicago reports.

Darius Sullivan and Xandria Harris are charged with fatally shooting Bradley police Sgt. Marlene Rittmanic, 49, and critically wounding her partner, Officer Tyler Bailey, 27, late Wednesday. Prosecutors said Sullivan likely killed Rittmanic with her own service weapon as she begged for her life.

Illinois is not a death penalty state, but the U.S. Attorney General can authorize the filing of a petition to seek the death penalty in a federal murder case under certain circumstances, Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Rowe said during a bond hearing for Xandria Harris, 26, of Bradley in Kankakee County Circuit Court.

“I will be submitting an official request to the U.S. Attorney General for the Central District of Illinois and to the U.S. Attorney General to review the first degree murder case pending against Darius Sullivan and Xandria Harris for federal murder charges, and pursue a federal sentence of death against both defendants,” Rowe said.

The State’s Attorney will also seek life sentences for both Sullivan and Harris as the existing state-level charges proceed, Rowe said.

Judge Kathy Bradshaw Elliott granted a request to deny Harris bail, telling Harris: “You are a real threat to the community.”

Sullivan, 25, of Bourbonnais was arrested Friday at a home in North Manchester, Indiana, police said.

CBS Chicago reports that prosecutors said that Rittmanic and Bailey had been called to the hotel for a complaint about barking dogs that had been left in a guest’s car. Bailey ran the license plate of the car with the barking dogs, and found it belonged to Harris, prosecutors said.

Marlene Rittmanic  / Credit: Bradley Police DepartmentMarlene Rittmanic  / Credit: Bradley Police Department

Marlene Rittmanic / Credit: Bradley Police Department

Rittmanic and Bailey went upstairs to room 308 with the intention of issuing a ticket for a local noise ordinance violation against Harris because of the barking dogs, and to arrest Sullivan on outstanding warrants, prosecutors said.

The officers first knocked on the door of room 308, but there was no answer. When officers knocked again, Bailey announced it was the police, and said they needed to address the complaint about the dogs. Harris, who was pregnant at the time, said from behind the door that she would be coming out of the room, prosecutors said.

Finally, after 14 minutes, Harris opened the door to the hotel room, prosecutors said. She tied to squeeze past the door and close it to prevent officers from arresting Sullivan – who was also in the room, prosecutors said.

As Bailey and Rittmanic kept asking Harris to stop blocking the door, Sullivan came from around the room holding a 9mm handgun with a drum clip, prosecutors said. Sullivan shot Bailey in the head, and then fired a first shot at Rittmanic as she tried to get out of his range, prosecutors said.

Sullivan then chased Rittmanic down the hallway and pinned her up against a door, prosecutors said. His gun became jammed at that point, and he began trying to unjam his own gun with his left hand while also trying to disarm Rittmanic with the other, prosecutors said.

Amid the struggle, Harris walked down the hallway and told Sullivan to “cock the gun.” Sullivan went on to get a hold of Rittmanic’s gun, prosecutors said.

Sullivan and Harris then stood over Rittmanic as she lay on the floor – already having been shot once. By this point, Harris was holding Sullivan’s gun, while Sullivan had Rittmanic’s duty weapon in hand, prosecutors said. Sullivan then fired two shots at Rittmanic from what was believed to be her own weapon – while Harris handed some keys to Sullivan and told him he had to go, prosecutors said.

Sullivan then fired the final fatal shots at Rittmanic, prosecutors said.

“Sgt. Rittmanic was pleading with them just to leave, you don’t have to do this, please just go, please don’t, she was desperately pleading for her life,” prosecutors said.

Rittmanic died that evening. Bradley remained in critical condition Monday.

The case will go before a Kankakee County grand jury on January 22. The next court date for Harris is January 27 when she will be arraigned.

In Wabash, Indiana, meanwhile, Sullivan is fighting extradition to Illinois. Rowe said he will start the process of asking Indiana’s governor to sign a warrant to have Sullivan extradited to Kankakee County.

On Saturday, Bradley police issued an alert through a Facebook post of fake GoFundMe accounts using Rittmanic’s name. The family is not using any online crowdfunding sources, according to the statement.

Illinois State Police released a statement Monday on behalf of Rittmanic’s family: “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.’ Meaning – if you have statutory grounds to arrest a person, tow their car, or fine them, doesn’t mean you should.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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