Police oversight agency releases bar fight video of cop who shot LeGrier

SHARE Police oversight agency releases bar fight video of cop who shot LeGrier
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Chicago Police Officer Robert Rialmo. | Sun-Times file photo

Chicago’s Police oversight agency Wednesday released video footage of an off-duty bar fight involving Robert Rialmo, the police officer who fatally shot Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones.

The move by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability comes under the transparency policies adopted by the city in the aftermath of the much-delayed release of video of the 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald, a COPA attorney said Wednesday during a hearing in the civil lawsuit by Jones’ and LeGrier’s families against Rialmo and the city.

The two videos show Rialmo, wearing a long-sleeve T-shirt and backwards baseball cap, throwing a flurry of punches at two men, knocking them both to the ground.

Note: Incident begins at 1:36 mark in top-right corner of video.

The manager of the restaurant was among those who called police after the punches were thrown.

“I got a guy that just knocked out some other guy,” the manager said. “I need a … I need police here immediately.”

Note: Incident begins at 1:46 mark in top-right corner of video.

COPA last month ruled that Rialmo’s shooting of Jones and LeGrier was unjustified, and has recommended CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson fire Rialmo.

The COPA investigation of the Dec. 17, 2017 fight at Moretti’s restaurant —in which Rialmo faces misdemeanor charges for allegedly punching two bar patrons in an off-duty scuffle —has not been concluded.

After the hearing Wednesday, Rialmo’s lawyer, Joel Brodsky said the surveillance cameras inside the restaurant were partially blocked by a chandelier, obscuring the view of the incident.

Brodsky said one of the men whom Rialmo punched was intoxicated and tried to take Rialmo’s coat, then “reared back” as if to throw a punch at Rialmo when the off-duty officer took the coat back. The view of man cocking his arm to punch Rialmo is blocked by the chandelier, Brodsky said.

RELATED: • Cop who shot Jones, LeGrier charged with battery, theft after December fight • Cop union wants to know why outside expert hired in LeGrier, Jones shootings • Chicago cop should be fired for ‘unjustified’ Quintonio LeGrier shooting: COPA

“So, (Rialmo) doesn’t want to wait around to get punched, so he shoved him,” Brodsky said. “He was ‘creating space.’ It’s what he’s trained to do” in police work, said Brodsky, who complained that releasing the video while Rialmo’s misdemeanor charges still are pending would bias the criminal case.

After Rialmo shoved the first man, a second man grabbed Rialmo, prompting Rialmo to throw a punch, Brodsky said. The blow dropped the man to the floor “because he was drunk,” Brodsky said.

Rialmo turned himself into police Monday, roughly a month after the incident, and was released on his own recognizance on misdemeanor charges of battery and theft.

Brodsky said Rialmo stayed at the bar even after police arrived, but never spoke to any officers that night.

Rialmo left only after a bar manager who had talked to police told him that the two men were not seeking to press charges, and the manager told Rialmo that he was free to leave.

City lawyer Matt Hurd on Wednesday also was chagrined to hear that Brodsky had made a $25 million settlement offer to the Jones’ family, a payout that Brodsky said would come from Chicago taxpayers. Brodsky said the city’s contract with the Fraternal Order of Police requires the city to pay for Rialmo’s lawyers — though Brodsky said the city has refused to pay him — and indemnify police officers for legal judgments.

Now that COPA has issued its finding on Rialmo’s December 2015 shooting of Jones and LeGrier, Johnson has until Mar. 22 to decide on whether to fire Rialmo or levy some other discipline on the officer.

Rialmo has said he opened fire on the 19-year-old LeGrier because the teen was charging at him and his partner wielding a baseball bat in the close quarters of the foyer of the building where Jones and LeGrier lived.

The bullets struck both LeGrier and the 55-year-old Jones, who was standing behind LeGrier.

COPA investigators pointed out that other witnesses did not back up Rialmo’s claim that LeGrier was swinging the bat, and said evidence at the scene indicates Rialmo was farther away from the teen when he opened fire.

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