Orlando teen Zechariah Cartledge took to his local track on Sunday to run in honor of fallen Bradley, Illinois police Sgt. Marlene Rittmanic, who was fatally shot on December 29 while responding to a noise complaint at a Comfort Inn hotel.
The 13-year-old, who founded the nonprofit Running 4 Heroes in 2019 alongside his father, Chad Cartledge, ran one mile around his school’s track while carrying a Thin Blue Line Flag to honor Rittmanic, according to the Daily Journal.
Rittmanic, 49, was killed, and her partner, Tyler Bailey, 27, was shot during their response to a complaint of dogs barking in an unattended vehicle at a Comfort Inn parking lot in Bradley, Breitbart News reported. Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Rowe is calling “for federal murder charges to be filed against” defendants Darius Sullivan, 25, and Xandria Harris, 26, and calls “for federal prosecutors to pursue the death penalty,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Authorities say Sullivan shot Rittmanic twice with her own gun after Harris assisted him in disarming her. Rowe says Bailey remained in the hospital on Monday “fighting for his life.”
After saying a private prayer for Sgt. Rittmanic, Cartledge took off sprinting around the track while a patrol vehicle followed closely behind him, blaring the SUV’s siren every time the teen finished a lap. A bagpipe rendition of “Amazing Grace” played in the background as Cartledge ran seven laps around the track, the equivalent of a mile.
When the youngster completed his run, he held a 21-second moment of silence for Rittmanic to honor her 21 years of service, and said a prayer for the sergeant’s family and department.
“God I ask you to continue to watch over her whole family and her whole department through the difficult time they are going through,” Cartledge said in his prayer. “She was a dedicated service member, and I know that she is still going to be up there in Heaven making sure everybody is safe up there as well. God thank you for keeping us all safe, and please keep this family and the department in your prayers as they come into the 2022 year. Amen.”
Later that night, the teen ran another mile to honor “Chicago firefighter MaShawn Plummer who died in the line of duty last month,” the Daily Journal reports.
Cartledge has run 1,104 miles for fallen first responders to date, according to the outlet. The 13-year-old sends the flag he carries for each first responder to their families along with a handwritten note.
He told the Daily Journal he had received messages and thanks from the Kankakee community and Rittmanic’s family.
“We’ve had lots of feedback from that community, from Rittmanic’s family and wife,” he told the outlet on Monday. “We’ve also received feedback from [Officer Bailey’s family] and have been getting updates from them on how he’s doing.”
Running 4 Heroes has over 337,000 followers on its Facebook page, and the nonprofit donates $10,000 monthly grants to those who were injured in the line of duty. “The individuals are nominated through an application process, and one is selected each month,” according to the Daily Journal.
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