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Rialmo testifies he didn’t have stun gun, baton when he shot LeGrier

Chicago police officer Robert Rialmo, the officer who shot and killed Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones in December 2015, leaves court at the Daley Center on June 19, 2018. | Max Herman/For the Sun-Times

Officer Robert Rialmo testified Tuesday in the wrongful death lawsuit brought against him and the city by the estate of Quintonio LeGrier — marking the first time Rialmo has publicly discussed the Dec. 26, 2015, shooting that left LeGrier and Bettie Jones shot to death on the West Side.

Rialmo — who was escorted to and from the courtroom by several Cook County sheriff’s officers — took the witness stand around 3:35 p.m., about an hour after he was scheduled to testify. He was met with rapid-fire questions from Basileios “Bill” Foutris, one of the attorneys for the LeGrier estate. Most of Rialmo’s responses were only one or two words.

“On Dec. 26, 2015, you shot Quintonio LeGrier?” Foutris asked.

“Yes,” Rialmo responded.

“You shot him multiple times?”

“Yes.”

“You shot him intentionally?”

“Yes.”

Referencing Rialmo’s cross-claim against the city and countersuit filed against the LeGrier estate, Foutris asked: “You want this jury to give you money for killing Antonio [LeGrier]’s kid?”

Rialmo paused, shrugged and said, “Yes.”

Foutris pressed Rialmo — who sported slicked-back black hair, a light blue shirt and striped tie — on why other, non-lethal options weren’t available to him when he responded to the call in the 4700 block of West Erie.

Rialmo acknowledged that he wasn’t equipped with a stun gun because he let his certification lapse. Rialmo also owned an extendable baton, but left it inside the police van he drove to the LeGrier home and didn’t bring it with him when he walked up and knocked on the door.

In his cross-claim against the city, Rialmo said he was “insufficiently trained by the city to respond defuse and de-escalate potentially violent situations without resorting to lethal force.”

Rialmo was ordered to return to the Daley Center at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, where his testimony will resume.

Forensic pathologist Dr. Judy Melinek on a break after testifying in the Quintonio LeGrier wrongful death case at the Daley Center on June 19 , 2018. | Max Herman/For the Sun-Times
Forensic pathologist Dr. Judy Melinek on a break after testifying in the Quintonio LeGrier wrongful death case at the Daley Center on June 19 , 2018. | Max Herman/For the Sun-Times

Earlier in the day, a forensic pathologist contradicted Rialmo’s previous testimony that LeGrier had raised a bat over his head when he ran at the officer.

Dr. Judy Melinek, a Harvard-educated forensic pathologist who’s worked in the Bay Area for the last 13 years, was retained as an expert witness by the LeGrier estate.

LeGrier was shot five times, Melinek testified, but LeGrier’s body showed six wounds.

One of the bullets, which entered through his left elbow, penetrated his arm eventually struck the left side of his chest. Melinek said that, given the angle of the wound, there is no evidence to show that LeGrier had raised a baseball bat over his head to attack Rialmo, as the officer had testified.

Melinek testified that because LeGrier’s body was found inside the vestibule of the building in the 4700 block of West Erie, there was no evidence to show he took any more steps after he was shot. That was because, she said, one of the shots fired by Rialmo struck and partially severed his spinal cord, which would have instantly paralyzed him from the waist down.

“There’s no way Quintonio took a step or multiple steps after the bullet hit his cord,” she said.

A photograph taken of LeGrier during his autopsy was displayed on a projection screen for the jury. LeGrier’s mother, Janet Cooksey, was seated directly beneath the projection screen as the image was displayed and she started to cry softly.

Quintonio LeGrier. | Family photo
Quintonio LeGrier. | Family photo

LeGrier’s estate filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Rialmo and the city shortly after the shooting and Rialmo, in turn, sued the LeGrier estate and the city, arguing that LeGrier forced him to shoot and the city didn’t properly train him.

Rialmo and his partner, Anthony LaPalermo, were responding to a domestic disturbance at LeGrier’s father’s house. On a 911 call, the panicked-sounding father, Antonio LeGrier, can be heard asking for police help, telling dispatchers: “He’s got a baseball bat in his hand.”

With police on their way, Antonio LeGrier asked his neighbor, Bettie Jones, to let the officers in. At the time, the father was barricaded in his room. When police arrived, Quintonio LeGrier was coming down the front stairs of the two-flat, all sides appear to agree.

What happened next is what’s at issue at trial. Daniel Watkins told jurors that the physical evidence from the scene — where the fired shell casings were found, the location of the blood stains — will be critical. Quintonio LeGrier wasn’t anywhere close to Rialmo when the officer started firing, Watkins said.