Chicago police disciplinary officials have ruled that an officer was unjustified in the fatal 2015 shooting of a baseball-bat clutching 19-year-old and an innocent bystander.
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability determined that Officer Robert Rialmo unjustifiably shot Quintonio LeGrier and 55-year-old Bettie Jones while responding to a domestic disturbance on the West Side on the day after Christmas two years ago, according to documents obtained by the Tribune through an open records request. After LeGrier approached officers with an aluminum baseball bat, Rialmo shot the teen and accidentally hit Jones, a neighbor standing nearby.
The ruling, dated Dec. 22, casts doubt on Rialmo’s account of events and turns in part on investigators’ determination that the evidence indicated that LeGrier did not swing the bat at Rialmo, as the officer has said. Investigators also found that the evidence — including shell casings, witness statements and forensic analysis — also suggested Rialmo was farther away from LeGrier when he fired than the officer has said. LeGrier fell in the vestibule of an apartment building, and Rialmo said he opened fire from the building’s front porch, but investigators determined it was more likely the officer was between the bottom of the porch and the sidewalk out front.
The agency concluded that a “reasonable officer” would not have believed he was in danger of death or serious injury.
Disciplinary authorities do not immediately disclose the recommendations for punishment they make to the Police Department, but COPA typically calls for firing officers in unjustified shootings. Superintendent Eddie Johnson has up to three months after receiving a recommendation for punishment to decide what discipline, if any, he’ll seek. The Chicago Police Board rules on serious discipline for officers, though the board’s decisions can be appealed through the courts.
A Chicago police spokesman declined to comment on the details of the recommendation before the department has completed its review of the case.
Rialmo’s attorney, Joel Brodsky, said the agency’s findings cast the evidence in a misleading light. He noted that LeGrier appeared to be suffering a crisis and came down the stairs with a baseball bat in the early morning following a domestic incident.
“I challenge anybody not to feel that their life was in danger in such a situation,” he said. “This is a political decision, not one based on the evidence. … this has got nothing to do with facts.”
Brodsky said he would look forward to challenging any potential attempt to fire his client.
LeGrier’s mother, Janet Cooksey, said she was thrilled that the ruling confirmed her belief that her son did not provoke the shooting.
Read: Civilian Office of Police Accountability report on fatal shooting of Quintonio LeGrier, Bettie Jones
“Each time they mention Quintonio and Bettie (Jones), they would always make it like my baby caused her death. And I know he didn’t. I knew he was just as much a victim as she was. He was innocent too,” she said.