A white Chicago police officer who fatally shot a black 19-year-old college student and accidently killed a woman has filed a lawsuit against the teenager’s estate, arguing the shooting was forced by the teen’s actions and caused the officer “extreme emotional trauma.”
The unusual lawsuit was filed Friday amid city leaders’ efforts to win back the public’s trust after several cases of alleged police misconduct.
Robert Rialmo’s lawsuit provides the officer’s first public account of how he says the Dec. 26 shooting in the West Garfield Park neighborhood happened. It says Rialmo opened fire after Quintonio LeGrier twice swung a bat at his head at close range, and LeGrier was shot when Rialmo saw him raising the bat again and thought LeGrier could kill him if LeGrier hit him in the head with the bat.
LeGrier’s father, Antonio LeGrier, filed a wrongful death lawsuit saying his son wasn’t a threat, and Rialmo’s lawsuit is a counter-suit in that case.
Antonio LeGrier’s attorney, Basileios Foutris, was incredulous at what he called the officer’s “temerity” in suing the grieving family of the person he shot. Foutris said the lawsuit is “outlandish” and “a new low” for Chicago police.
“After this coward shot a teenager in the back … he has the temerity to sue him? That’s a new low for the Chicago Police Department,” Foutris said.
The lawsuit filed Friday says Rialmo was confronted by Quintonio LeGrier after his father’s downstairs neighbor, Bettie Jones, answered the front door of the frame two-flat in the 4700 block of West Erie Street and then moved to go back into her apartment.
After Rialmo stepped into the front door of the building, LeGrier came “barging” out the front door of the second-floor apartment, holding a baseball bat in his right hand, according to the lawsuit. Rialmo had been standing in the front doorway, and when LeGrier got downstairs, he “took a full swing” at the officer, “missing it by inches, but getting close
enough for Officer Rialmo to feel the movement of air as the bat passed in front of his face.”
Rialmo back onto the front porch near the top of the front stairs, and “repeatedly shouted orders for LeGrier to drop the bat,” but LeGrier instead went onto the also and took another swing at Rialmo, according to the lawsuit. Rialmo, who was still shouting for LeGrier to drop the bat and had his gun in his holster, then back down to the bottom of the steps.
LeGrier stood “with the baseball bat cocked back over his right shoulder with a two (2) handed grip, approximately three (3) feet above Officer Rialmo and approximately three (3) to four (4) feet from where Officer Rialmo was standing on the bottom step of the front porch to the building, Officer Rialmo feared that LeGrier would strike him in the head with the baseball bat so hard that it would kill him,” according to the lawsuit.
“Rialmo reasonably believed that if he did not use deadly force against LeGrier, that LeGrier would kill him, Officer Rialmo drew his handgun from its holster, and starting to fire from holster level, fired eight (8) rounds at LeGrier from his 9 mm Smith Wesson
handgun, which holds eighteen (18) rounds, in approximately two and a half (2-1/2) seconds,” according to the lawsuit.
LeGrier was shot on the left side of his chest, the lower left side of his back, the right buttock and the left arm and suffered graze wounds to his chest and right shoulder, according to the autopsy report on LeGrier. Jones died of a single gunshot wound to the chest, Cook County medical examiner records show.
The “fourth round that Officer Rialmo fired, passed through LeGrier and stuck Bettie Jones, who unbeknownst to Officer Rialmo, was standing in the front doorway to the building … behind LeGrier and partially exposed to any gunfire that might pass through LeGrier,” according to the lawsuit.
“The fact that LeGrier’s actions … forced Officer Rialmo to end LeGrier’s life, and to
accidently take the innocent life of Bettie Jones, has caused, and will continue to cause, Officer Rialmo to suffer extreme emotional trauma,” the lawsuit states.
The narrative in the lawsuit is similar to that released by the medical examiner’s office in connection with autopsies performed on LeGrier and the neighbor, Jones.
The reports say Antonio LeGrier called police and then asked Jones if she would let officers into the building when they arrived. Jones agreed — against the wishes of a friend who was with her in her apartment, according to the report.
When police arrived, Jones pointed upstairs, and at that time, Quintonio LeGrier was coming down the stairs heading toward Jones, the report said.
“Jones motioned to step back into her apartment; at which time, police fired shots in an attempt to stop Quintonio,” according to the report, a narrative similar to that in Rialmo’s lawsuit, but which appears less detailed.
The Associated Press contributed.