The Lansing firefighter and Iraq War vet killed by a hit-and-run driver had just married in June. His wife was a trauma nurse, and he often brought her patients in the course of his work.
But on Wednesday, the devastated bride was on duty when her husband was rushed into the emergency room. She tried desperately to save his life, relatives say.
Police say Dennis Rodeman, 35, was intentionally struck by a pickup at 3:40 p.m. while collecting money for charity at a busy intersection. Witnesses said Rodeman and the suspect, 22-year-old Grant Jacob Taylor, had an exchange before Taylor turned around and hit Rodeman with his truck. Prosecutors charged Taylor with murder on Thursday.
A former Marine who survived a tour in Fallujah, Rodeman married ER nurse Katherine Rodeman three months ago, and they were expecting their first child.
“They brought him into her while she was working,” Dennis Rodeman’s cousin, Pammy Shoup, told The Daily Beast. “She was trying to save her husband’s life.”
Rodeman was pronounced dead at about 6:30 p.m., police said. As the firefighter’s family reeled from the tragedy, Rodeman’s mother was also admitted to the hospital on Thursday morning for a stroke apparently caused by the horrifying incident, relatives said. Her condition was not known on Thursday evening.
“The person that did this to him was just a sick bastard,” Shoup fumed. “He had no reason to do any of this. Dennis was just trying to take donations for [muscular dystrophy].”
In addition to the murder charge, Taylor is facing one count of failure to stop at the scene of an accident resulting in death—when at fault—and two counts of fleeing a police officer, authorities say.
Police have not released details of the verbal exchange between the alleged killer and Rodeman, a seven-year veteran of the Lansing fire department.
“The suspect came by, was upset for whatever reason [and] circled back around,” said Lansing police Captain Jim Kraus. “The preliminary investigation is that he deliberately hit the firefighter, who was standing in the road, collecting for the charity.”
Rodeman and his colleagues were collecting donations for a local Muscular Dystrophy Association fundraiser when Taylor allegedly rammed into him. Police say Taylor then drove off and ran from his truck after authorities stopped him. He was arrested after a short chase, the Lansing State Journal reported.
While firefighters with Engine 48 said they weren’t authorized to speak to the media, many publicly mourned their colleague on Facebook.
“Yesterday, a friend, a coworker, a brother in arms was senselessly murdered in the street of my town,” one fireman wrote. “A man who, even though was junior to me at work, I admired and looked up to.”
“I can not believe, or will ever believe how someone can perpetrate such an evil thing,” he added. “My eyes will never un-see what I saw yesterday. My brain will never totally hide it. This will be with me forever, just like Dennis will be with me forever.”
Rodeman served in the 1st Battalion of the 24th Marine infantry regiment. Before serving in the Marines, he was an eight-year volunteer with the Vermontville Fire Department.
The city of Lansing, fire department and firefighters’ union created a GoFundMe page and that raised more than $72,900 for Rodeman’s family as of Friday morning.
“It is beyond comprehension that this American hero lost his life on the streets of Lansing while collecting charitable contributions for children afflicted by muscular dystrophy,” organizers wrote on the page.
Fellow Marine Jace Pomales told The Daily Beast he went to boot camp in San Diego and infantry school at Camp Pendleton with Rodeman, who became a gifted guide and leader in training and on the battlefield.
“He was one of those incredible people who puts his life on the line for anybody and anyone, whether he knew you or not,” Pomales said.
Pomales said Rodeman originally went to boot camp in 1998 but injured his leg and had a medical discharge. But Rodeman was undeterred; his life dream was to become a Marine. After years of rehab, he got the opportunity to return to boot camp in 2003, Pomales said.
“When he was told, ‘No, you can’t any longer. No, you’re broken, you have to go home,’ that’s not something he accepted,” Pomales said. “He did everything he could to find himself back in the Marine Corps.”
Despite Rodeman being a burly Marine with big muscles, he was “one of the funniest, kindest guys you’ll ever meet,” Pomales said.
Rodeman’s cousin, Shoup, said he was like a brother to her. Relatives, especially children in the family, called him “Uncle D.” Shoup said he took nieces and nephews to the fire stations and coached youth football games.
“He was a hero,” Shoup said. “He helped anybody and everybody. It didn’t matter if he knew who you were. No matter how many times you were horrible to him. He would still be there to help you.”