Shifting stories for Chicago cop in LeGrier, Jones shooting

SHARE Shifting stories for Chicago cop in LeGrier, Jones shooting

LaTonya Jones, the daughter of Bettie Jones, holds a picture of her mother during a vigil outside her home on December 27, 2015 in Chicago (File Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The Chicago police officer who killed Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones offered different accounts of what happened in interviews with police detectives in the two days after the shootings, police reports obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times suggest.

In the first interview, Officer Robert Rialmo stated that LeGrier, 19, approached him wielding an aluminum bat above his head, according to the reports. But in Rialmo’s second interview two days later, he said the teen took two swings at him with the bat — swings that Rialmo’s partner told detectives he never saw.

Separately, City Hall on Thursday released several hours of video and audio recordings related to the Dec. 26 shootings in response to Freedom of Information Act requests from the Sun-Times.

Those new records don’t include video of the incident itself, but they do provide more details about what occurred. Rialmo and his partner, Anthony LaPalermo, took about 10 minutes to respond to the West Side domestic dispute, according to the recordings. After they arrived, no more than three minutes had passed before Rialmo fatally shot LeGrier and Jones.

LaPalermo and Rialmo arrived at the home of Antonio LeGrier, Quintonio LeGrier’s father, around 4:38 a.m. after he and his son had both placed calls to 911. The cops were driving a police van that wasn’t equipped with a GPS tracking device or dashcam when they pulled up to the two-flat at 4710 W. Erie, the newly obtained records show.

Jones — Antonio LeGrier’s downstairs neighbor — let police in. Police have said she was accidentally killed when Rialmo opened fire.

The police reports provide the public with both Rialmo’s and his partner’s version of events for the first time. Rialmo is on administrative leave from the department.

According to Rialmo’s interview less than two hours after the shooting, he said he rang the doorbell, and Jones motioned that there was trouble upstairs. Jones, 55, “turned to walk back into her apartment” when “Quintonio LeGrier pulled the front door all the way open” with the bat above his head. He’d been staying with his dad while on break from Northern Illinois University.

“Rialmo started to back up as LeGrier started onto the front porch” and drew his gun while ordering LeGrier to drop the bat. “Rialmo in fear of his life discharged his weapon three to four times. … Rialmo stated he was stepping backwards down the stairs while discharging his service weapon and stopped at the bottom of the [porch] stairs on the walkway leading to the house.”

The Cook County medical examiner later determined that LeGrier was shot six times and Bettie Jones once.

Antonio LeGrier had come down from the apartment upstairs, and Rialmo yelled “Dad, what the f—” at him. He said he heard Antonio LeGrier respond, “Hey, you did what you had to do.”

Basileios “Bill” Foutris, an attorney for Antonio LeGrier, said the comment attributed to his client is “absolutely not” true. “It defies words,” Foutris said. “He’s there watching his son bleed to death.”

LaPalermo, first interviewed at 6:22 a.m. the morning of the shooting, told detectives he was just behind Rialmo to the right and that “Jones turned back towards her apartment.” LaPalermo said he saw LeGrier holding the bat and told Rialmo to “look out” before Rialmo fired “six to eight times.” LaPalermo also said he’d drawn his gun while going down the porch stairs but never fired.

The officers were interviewed separately again on Dec. 28. This time, Rialmo said he “heard someone charging down the stairs from the second floor” and that “Quintonio LeGrier opened the door leading from the second floor apartment and stepped into the vestibule.”

Rialmo told detectives he started backing out the door when LeGrier stepped in between Jones and him. Moments later, he said, LeGrier began swinging the bat.

“Rialmo started to back up as LeGrier started onto the front porch. Quintonio LeGrier swung the baseball bat at P.O. Rialmo with an overhand downward swing and then a half backwards swing,” according to the police report.

In his second interview, LaPalermo replied that he was “looking down as he backed down the stairs and did not see Quintonio LeGrier swing the bat.”

Joel Brodsky, an attorney for Rialmo, said his client had not changed his story. The police reports are summaries of detectives’ interviews with Rialmo, Brodsky said, and might leave out details that the officer provided.

“They could both be fully accurate,” Brodsky said. “I don’t see anything different.”

But Foutris, the attorney for Antonio LeGrier, said Rialmo’s accounts strain credibility. “The longer in time you go, the more dangerous Quintonio appears,” he said.

Relatives of Quintonio LeGrier and Jones have sued the city, and Rialmo responded with his own lawsuit against the LeGriers. The four-year officer alleges he has experienced emotional distress, pain and suffering.

The batch of recordings and other records released by City Hall show how quickly the incident turned deadly.

At 4:18 a.m., Quintonio LeGrier called 911 and told the dispatcher “someone’s threatening my life.” The dispatcher hung up when LeGrier declined to give his name, as did another dispatcher when LeGrier called back about two minutes later.

Finally, after LeGrier called a third time, at 4:21 a.m., a 911 dispatcher promised to send police. LeGrier’s father called 911 three minutes later.

At 4:26 a.m., a dispatcher called over police radio for vehicle 1172R, a marked police van that was taken out that night by Rialmo and LaPalermo.

The records do not reveal where the officers were before the call.

The dispatcher told Rialmo and LaPalermo they needed to make a “well being” check at 4710 W. Erie. “A male caller said someone is threatening his life,” she said, adding it was a “domestic” incident involving a 19-year-old “with a baseball bat.”

There were no radio communications for more than 10 minutes after that.

But a street-corner surveillance camera recorded the van turning east onto Erie from Cicero Avenue at 4:37, according to the time stamp on the video. The two-flat where LeGrier and Jones lived was half a block away.

A street-corner police camera captured this image of Officers Robert Rialmo and Anthony LaPalermo responding in a police van (bottom right corner) to a domestic dispute in the 4700 block of West Erie on Dec. 26. The officers turned onto Erie shortly after

A street-corner police camera captured this image of Officers Robert Rialmo and Anthony LaPalermo responding in a police van (bottom right corner) to a domestic dispute in the 4700 block of West Erie on Dec. 26. The officers turned onto Erie shortly after 4:37 a.m., according to the timestamp. Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones were shot around 4:40 a.m., according to police radio recordings. Source: City of Chicago

Less than three minutes later, LaPalermo made a frantic call over the radio. “Shots fired!” he said. “We got two down, two down.”

The dispatcher asked if the cops were all right. One officer said yes. “F—-’ step up on the cars and the ambo right now!”

Seconds later, firefighters were also sent. By 4:43, other police were arriving on the scene. Nine squad cars with lights flashing sped around the corner of Cicero and Erie, according to the video recording there, and within minutes 11 more police cars parked on Cicero.

Brodsky, Rialmo’s attorney, said the video time stamps may not be precise. “It’s not like they’re tied into one central clock.”

Rialmo and LaPalermo sat in their car for “a few minutes” upon arriving at the two-flat, Brodsky said, but “Everything else happens really fast after that.”

The entire incident — from the time the cops stepped out of their car to the time Rialmo fired his gun — took “anywhere from three to four minutes,” Brodsky said.

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