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It was a somber day across Kankakee County as a community honored a fallen hero. In the first procession at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, the fallen officer's brothers and sisters walked through to honor her. It was an emotional day for many people across the area. Hundreds of people came by, showing how tight-knit the community can be.
"One of the most tragic things we've seen in a long time," Kankakee Mayor Chris Curtis said.
Curtis joined other residents, community leaders and first responders at Olivet Nazarene to reflect on the legacy of Sgt. Rittmanic and the work she did for the last 14 years.
"We're paying her respect for the number of years she's given to this community as a law enforcement officer and as you can see now the community is coming together to show her respect," said Theodis Pace, president, Kankakee County NAACP.
Hundreds of officers in formal uniform moved in solemn formation toward the chapel to honor their late colleague.
"She was a kind soul," said Sgt. Craig Anderson. "Marlene always had the view of people. She believed the best of everybody."
It was that unbridled belief in basic goodness, her colleagues said, that made the Army veteran and sergeant the best kind of police officer.
"She knew that there was that risk, but she wanted our officers, she trained our officers, she was one of our field training officers, to also remember the human aspect in law enforcement," Anderson said.
As the fallen officer was honored, her injured 27-year-old partner, Tyler Bailey, is still recovering after undergoing life-saving surgery.
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Many people are still struggling to understand how a noise complaint at a nearby hotel led to this much tragedy for the two officers.
"It's sad, but what's going on across America is lack of respect for authority and its reality and things we have to face on a daily basis, how we can improve it? That's the question," Pace said.
Everyone showing up had a common message of support for the risk these officers take, and how important they are to the people living here.
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"They're the best and she led that by example," Curtis said. "Even at times we've been divided in the communities, in the nation, she had been right there with the marches, the last to be alongside and she'd been right there the first to step up and help the community when it's needed."
Now the community is coming together to never forget its fallen hero.
"It's galvanized us," Curtis said. "And I hope it continues not through next week, but I hope it continues for months and years to come."
Sg.t Rittmanic is survived by her wife. Her funeral is set to begin at 10 a.m. Friday morning at Olivet Nazarene.
In the meantime, the investigation into her death continues, with the local state's attorney pursuing federal charges against both suspects.
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