DETROIT - A man who pleaded no contest to the murder of a Detroit police sergeant was sentenced Thursday to 40 to 75 years in prison.
Marquise Cromer, 21, was charged with the murder of Sgt. Kenneth Steil, who was shot in the shoulder while allegedly pursuing the suspect on September 12, 2016 and died five days later. He was 46.
Steil was posthumously promoted to Captain.
Cromer pleaded no contest Jan. 25 to second-degree murder, assault with intent to murder, carjacking and felony firearms violations. He was originally facing the following charges in three cases:
- First-degree murder
- Murder of a peace officer
- Three count assault with intent to murder
- One count of resisting and obstructing a police officer causing serious impairment
- Three counts of resisting and obstructing a police officer
- One count of possession of a short barreled shotgun
- Firearms discharge in a building causing injury
- Felony firearms violations
Cromer was referred for competency and criminal responsibility evaluations and was found competent. His no contest plea includes the phrase "guilty but mentally ill."
Steil's wife forgives killer
JoAnn Steil addressed the court telling the judge what life is like without her husband, ultimately forgiving Cromer for his crimes.
“I am a woman of God who will not be shook from her faith and that is why I forgive you Marquise,” Joann Steil said.
Officer speaks about mental illness
Detroit police Officer Stephen Heid told the court he believes Cromer is using mental illness as an excuse to not take responsibility for his actions and that the plea has become too common among criminals.
“As the news stories pile up of those with mental illness gunning down police, I see a dangerous precedent being set,” Heid said. “Metal illness – that is the new excuse, an excuse to brutally gun down officers of the law. They say we are criminalizing the mentally ill.”
Heid said he knows many mentally ill people who have never picked up a gun and shot their own father or run from the police and ambushed an officer.
“He does not fool me,” Heid said. “This act he has put on since the moment he was apprehended, laughing and giggling, blowing kisses at me during the pre-exam. I have no doubt he has mental illness... but that does not excuse him of responsibility of his actions."
Cromer says God told him to do it
Cromer addressed the court before learning his fate, telling the judge God told him to do it.
“I was hearing voices,” Cromer told the court. “Someone told me to do it, so, I thought it was God, to be honest.”
Cromer was sentenced to 40 to 75 years in prison.
According to police, Cromer shot his father at a home in the 2100 block of Dickerson Street just the day before Steil was shot at the gas station on 7 Mile Road.
Sterling Cromer, 62, was shot while he was eating dinner with his wife Sept. 11 at about 5 p.m.
Police said Marquise Cromer went upstairs and came down with a sawed-off shotgun, then shot his father in the foot. While Cromer was trying to reload, the parents were able to escape the home, according to police.
Authorities say Marquise Cromer suffers from depression.
Police were searching for Cromer when the Detroit Police Department received a call with information that Cromer was seen in a restaurant in the 15000 block of 7 Mile Road.
Officers saw Cromer run from the restaurant to a Sunoco gas station at 7 Mile Road and Hayes Street. Steil, a 20-year veteran with the department, was pursuing Cromer and when he came around a corner he was shot in the shoulder.
Steil was taken to St. John Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries and was expected to make a full recovery, but as hospital staff were preparing to send him home, the officer collapsed and suffered a medical issue that killed him.
After the shooting, police say Marquise Cromer tried to hop a fence but was tackled by backup officers. A sawed-off shotgun was recovered during the arrest.
Police mourn loss of sergeant
Steil’s colleagues said his actions at the gas station illustrate the type of leader he was.
“A cop takes the job seriously,” Assistant Chief Steve Dolunt said. “Kenny took it seriously. He went after the bad guy.”
Steil was a member of the department’s underwater recovery team. He was affectionately known as “Shark.”
“Kenny put his life on the line literally for the city,” Dolunt said. “Unfortunately his wife and two kids don’t have him anymore.”
His family kept him on life support long enough for his organs to be harvested.
Steil leaves behind a wife, JoAnn, and two boys, ages 3 and 5.
Preliminary hearings get underway
The charges against Cromer stem from three different cases: Sgt. Steil's fatal shooting, Cromer's father's shooting, and a carjacking. The first hearing was about the carjacking.
The first and only witness in the first hearing said Cromer shot him at a car wash.
The victim said he was cleaning his car when Cromer approached him and asked for a ride. The victim refused and Cromer allegedly pulled out a sawed-off shotgun, telling him that he was going to take the car.
The victim said he wasn't given a chance to get out of the vehicle before being shot. He was later able to Cromer from a photo lineup.
Second preliminary hearing starts
A Detroit officer that was working with Steil the night of the shooting took the stand.
The officer has been with DPD for two years.
He described the pursuit of the suspect that night and the arrest of Cromer.
Cromer laughed at the officer and gave him a thumbs up as the officer described the arrest saying, “He was screaming like a girl.”
Officer testifies about shooting at gas station
Another Detroit officer took the stand to give testimony about the shooting.
The officer said he saw Steil drop to the ground at the gas station on 7 Mile Road. He watched as Steil was running around the corner before the gunshot was fired.
The shot allegedly came from behind the gas station.
After his testimony, Cromer was bound over for trial.
Department remembers fallen officer
A visitation was held at Wujek Calcaterra & Sons Funeral home located at 36900 Schoenherr Road in Sterling Heights.
Funeral services were held at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church located 22412 Overlake Street in St. Clair Shores.
Interment was at Resurrection Cemetery at 18201 Clinton River Road in Clinton Township.
Police said donations can be made for Steil's boy's college fund at the Detroit Public Safety Foundation.
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