To her niece, Bradley Police Sgt. Marlene Rittmanic showed what kind of cop she was as protesters screamed in her face about police brutality last year.
“She says, we’re not all bad. And she said if you’re going to march, then I’m going to march every step with you,” Ashlee Johnson recalled. “And she got down on a knee and prayed with these people and showed her support just to show them that they’re not alone and that all cops aren’t bad.”
Wednesday night, Rittmanic and her partner were responding to a call at a motel off Interstate 57 when someone in a room opened fire, killing her and critically wounding her partner, according to police.
“It’s devastating,” Johnson said. “She was so optimistic and just so intelligent about so much. She made the world a better place.”
The two officers had been called to the Comfort Inn in the 1500 block of North State Highway 50 — about 60 miles from Chicago — around 9:40 p.m. because dogs were barking in a car in the parking lot, according to Bradley Police Chief Donald W. Barber.
They went to the motel room where the owner of the car was believed to be and began talking to the people inside, Barber said. “During conversation, the officers were attacked by the subjects occupying the room, [and] both officers were shot,” he said.
Rittmanic, 49, and her partner Officer Tyler Bailey, 27, were rushed to hospitals in critical condition and Rittmanic later died, Barber said.
Authorities have issued arrest warrants for Darius D. Sullivan, 25, and Xandria Harris, 26, of Bradley, and are offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to his arrest, officials said.
Barber asked that anyone with information contact the Illinois State Police at (815) 698-2315 or the Kankakee County Crime Stoppers at 93-CRIME.
Early Thursday, Rittmanic’s body was transported in a police procession from the Riverside Medical Center to the Kankakee County morgue, and officials later lowered the flag at Bradley Village Hall to half-staff.
“This is a very sad and tragic day for the Bradley village family,” said Bradley Mayor Mike Watson. “Our hearts and prayers go out to the family members of all involved.”
Rittmanic had lived in Kankakee and joined the Bradley Police Department in 2007. She previously spent seven years as a deputy with the Iroquois County Sheriff’s Department.
Rittmanic had worked for years to reach the rank of sergeant, her niece said. She was five years from retirement.
“The crazy thing is they’d probably have to kick her out, she loved her job so much,” Johnson said. “She wasn’t that type of person that wanted to pull you over to give you a ticket, unless she felt it was absolutely the only thing she had to do, but she wasn’t that kind of cop.
“She always aimed to be a cop to make a difference,” Johnson said.
Rittmanic’s enthusiasm for her job inspired Johnson to look into following in her aunt’s footsteps, she said. Johnson remembers speaking with Illinois SWAT officers and asking them if they knew the name Marlene Rittmanic.
“They said, the sergeant up in Bradley? And I was like, yeah, that’s my aunt. They said, Damn, she’s one hell of a cop,” Johnson said.
Rittmanic was the “family’s backbone,” and Johnson said anyone in trouble would call her.
“She always found a way to figure out everything for everybody and make everybody’s life easier,” she said. “She always made sure that we celebrated life.”