KANKAKEE, Ill. (CBS) — The Kankakee County State’s Attorney’s office on Monday asked the federal prosecutors to review the cases against two defendants charged in a shooting that killed one Bradley police officer and wounded another, and also asked federal prosecutors to pursue a death sentence.
Darius Sullivan, 25, and Xandria Harris, 26, both stand charged in the Wednesday night shooting that killed Bradley police Sgt. Marlene Rittmanic, 49, and wounded critically wounded her partner, Officer Tyler Bailey, 27.READ MORE: Pair Charged In Murder Of 8-Year-Old Melissa Ortega Denied Bail; Accused Teen Gunman Committed Three Previous Carjackings, Prosecutors Say
Prosecutors also said Monday that Sullivan likely shot and killed Rittmanic with her own service weapon as she pleaded for her life.
On Monday, Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Rowe submitted an official request to the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of Illinois to review the first-degree murder cases against Sullivan and Harris for possible federal charges, and to pursue a federal death sentence for both defendants.
“I do think it’s a long shot, but I can’t blame him for trying,” CBS 2 Legal Analyst Irv Miller told CBS 2’s Jermont Terry Monday night.
County prosecutors noted that Illinois does not have the death penalty at the state level, but “under these circumstances the United States Attorney General can authorize the filing of a petition to seek the death penalty in a federal murder case.”
Kankakee prosecutors will seek life sentences on the state charges against Sullivan and Harris, They are charged with first-degree murder of a police officer and attempted first-degree murder of a police officer, among other counts.
Kankakee prosecutors noted that the U.S. Attorney’s office has previously pursued the death penalty for a law enforcement officer, and has pursued it in non-death-penalty states.
Sgt. Rittmanic was shot and killed after responding to a call of dogs barking in an unattended car last week at the Comfort Inn hotel at 1500 N. Illinois Highway 50 in Bradley, Illinois.
Bailey was also shot and was listed in critical condition.
In a proffer, Kankakee 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.
Bailey entered the hotel and met with Rittmanic. Bailey asked if there were any rooms booked under Harris or Sullivan’s names, and the clerk told him and Rittmanic that room 308 had been booked under Sullivan’s name, prosecutors said.
Rittmanic and Bailey went upstairs to room 308 with the intention 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.
Bailey knocked a third time and asked Harris if she was coming out, prosecutors said. He kept waiting and knocking, while Harris said she had to get dressed, and claimed that she, her sister, and some kids were in the room, prosecutors said.
Finally, after 14 minutes, Harris opened the door to the hotel room, prosecutors said. She tired 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.READ MORE: Cook County Chief Judge Tim Evans Doubles Down On Pretrial Release Policies With Regard To Young Offenders
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 Sgt. 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.
A warrant was issued for Sullivan and Harris in connection to Rittmanic’s death. Sullivan was arrested in rural northeast Indiana and charged with first-degree murder, while Harris later turned herself in.
Sullivan’s mother, Nichele Newton-Carroll, and his brother, Jalmen Sullivan, were also each arrested amid the investigation. They are accused of obstructing justice and harboring a fugitive. Newton-Carroll’s charges of lying to authorities are out of Newton County, Indiana, while Jalmen Sullivan is accused of transporting his brother from Kankakee County to Wabash, Indiana in hopes of escaping.
Sullivan has a criminal record in Kankakee County, including a guilty plea to a 2015 theft charge. He also was charged with burglary in 2018, and the case remains open. He also was charged with misdemeanor battery earlier this year.
“This case is actually what I would call the poster child for why there should be the death penalty,” Miller said.
But the death penalty is outlawed in Illinois, and Miller pointed out that 99 percent of murder cases are tried at the state level. The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office did not seek out federal charges in the murder of Chicago Police Officer Ella French last year, nor did we see the U.S. Attorney step in back in 2018 when CPD Cmdr. Paul Bauer was shot and killed at the Thompson Center while chasing a suspect.
So why is the Bradley case different?
“There has to be some federal jurisdiction attached to a murder case for the feds to get involved,” Miller said. “In this particular case, I think he’s reaching out trying to get the maximum punishment.”
Such was the case in 2017, when University of Illinois student Yingying Zheng was kidnapped and murdered. Miller explained the death penalty was originally on the table for the killer, Brendt Christensen, who was later sentenced to life in prison.
“If you kill someone during a kidnapping, that makes it a federal charge,” Miller said.MORE NEWS: New Information On Northshore Clinical Labs Now At The Center Of A Federal Investigation
There is a push by some in Congress to make killing any state or local law enforcement officer a federal crime, but it has not moved forward.