One day after Christmas, a white Chicago cop shot a 19-year-old black college student six times — also killing a neighbor — and he is now suing the boy’s estate for $10 million; with the claim that the shooting caused him trauma.
The eyebrow-raising lawsuit was filed on Friday by 27-year-old Officer Robert Rialmo, amidst the city’s very troubling revelations of officers often using unnecessary and avoidable use of force against people of color. Numerous cases of alleged misconduct and an open investigation by the U.S. Justice Department into civil rights violations by its officers have lost the Chicago police force much of the public’s trust. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has even had to promise a complete overhaul of the police department in hopes that it might heal the fractured relationship with the black community, but this new lawsuit against a victim’s estate might just put that at risk.
Rialmo fired his weapon a total of seven times before sunrise on the day he killed Quintonio LeGrier, with four of the bullets that struck the boy landing in his back and one killing 55-year-old Bettie Jones, who was LeGrier’s downstairs neighbor. In his defense, the officer contends that the six shots were fired because LeGrier had been coming at him with a bat from the doorway of the family’s West Side home. Jones had been standing in the hallway and was killed instantly when Rialmo’s bullet struck the grandmother in the heart.
— FOX 32 News (@fox32news) February 6, 2016
According to the ABC News, attorney Joel Brodsky, who represents Rialmo, said that the lawsuit against the estate of the boy his client killed is important as it sends a message that the police “suffer damage like anybody else” and are “not targets for assaults.” In an interview with Chicago Sun Times the lawyer candidly expressed his feelings.
“Lately it seems people have had a tendency to treat confrontations with police officers like a lottery ticket they can cash in. In this case, a lawsuit against my client was filed before a funeral was held.”
Quintonio LeGrier was killed on December 26 and his father, Antonio LeGrier, filed the wrongful death lawsuit in early January. The teen’s father has stated that his son had not been a threat to Rialmo and the other officer who had responded to their apartment that day. The family’s attorney, Basileios Foutris, is astounded that the officer would sue the estate of someone he had shot and killed.
— Chicago Tribune (@chicagotribune) February 6, 2016
The $10 million lawsuit for punitive damages for emotional distress as well as physical and emotional trauma from LeGrier’s estate has revealed two separate accounts of the day the black teen was shot, with Officer Robert Rialmo’s tale being vastly different from that told by LeGrier’s family.
It was Antonio LeGrier who had called the police that morning to seek help when his angry and emotionally disturbed son, home from college, began threatening him with a metal bat. Rialmo was among the first responders and when Quintonio LeGrier heard the officers he left his father upstairs and went downstairs. Bettie Jones who was not a part of the domestic dispute was the one who opened the door and directed the officers to the upstairs apartment.
Rialmo says that just heard someone “charging down the stairs” and was on the second step of the home when the boy took a full swing at his face with the bat and did so another two times while he backed up, gun still holstered, and tried to talk the boy down. Eventually he says he had to pull his 9 mm handgun and fired shots when they were about four feet apart. Rialmo says he never saw Jones and the bullet that killed her was one that had passed through LeGrier’s body. An autopsy revealed LeGrier had been shot six times and Jones was killed immediately.
The lawsuit says LeGrier forced Rialmo’s hand.
“The fact that LeGrier’s actions had forced Officer Rialmo to end LeGrier’s life and to accidentally take the innocent life of Bettie Jones has caused, and will continue to cause Officer Rialmo to suffer extreme emotional trauma.”
The Chicago Patch wrote that according to the attorneys for the family of Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones, Rialmo’s account is false as he was about 20-feet away when he fired the fatal shots and that shell casings were found on the sidewalk. The family says that the 19-year-old had also been calling the police that day to seek help calming him and attacking the officer would have made no sense.
The FBI has been asked to investigate the shooting but the police department has refused to comment on the unusualness of the officer’s lawsuit. Phil Turner, former federal prosecutor and current defense attorney, has questioned the merit of Officer Rialmo’s case and though he has no connections to the case suggests that it is a method of intimidating the LeGrier family.
Foutris believes the lawsuit against the boy’s estate is a desperate attempt by the Chicago officer to deflect attention away from his unjustified shooting.
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