Chicago Police Board to announce fate of Officer Robert Rialmo
The decision about whether to discipline Rialmo comes nearly four years after he shot and killed Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones.
Nearly four years after he fired the shots that claimed the lives of two people on the West Side, Chicago Police Officer Robert Rialmo is expected to learn Thursday if he has a future with the department.
The Chicago Police Board, the body that metes out discipline for officers, is expected to announce its decision at its monthly meeting at Chicago Police headquarters, according to Executive Director Max Caproni.
Despite initially saying he believed the shooting to be justified, police Supt. Eddie Johnson filed several charges against Rialmo, a 30-year-old Marine veteran, in November 2018. Those charges alleged action or conduct impeding department efforts to achieve its policy and goals or bringing discredit upon the department; disobeying an order or directive; inattention to duty; incompetency or inefficiency in the performance of duty; and unlawful or unnecessary use or display of a weapon.
The charges, though, aren’t connected to the death of 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier, who ran at Rialmo with an aluminum baseball bat. They focus solely on the killing of Bettie Jones, the downstairs neighbor of the LeGrier family who opened the door for Rialmo and his partner when they arrived at 4710 W. Erie St. in late December 2015.
The shooting occurred during a particularly fractious time between the police department and the city’s communities of color; just a month earlier the city was ordered to release the Laquan McDonald shooting video.
Tim Grace, one of the attorneys representing Rialmo in his police board proceedings, told the Chicago Sun-Times Wednesday: “We’re cautiously optimistic that the police board is going to understand the issues in the case and send Officer Rialmo back to work.”
In the early hours of Dec. 26, 2015, Rialmo and his partner, Anthony LaPalermo, responded to several calls of a domestic disturbance involving 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier and his father.
The elder LeGrier had barricaded himself in his bedroom as his son — who was in the midst of a mental health crisis — tried to get in with an aluminum baseball bat. The elder LeGrier had asked Jones to let the police in when they arrived.
Jones, 55, answered the door for the officers and signaled to them that the commotion was coming from upstairs. Rialmo was standing on the front porch with LaPalermo a few paces behind him in the walkway.
Moments later, the younger LeGrier came charging down the stairs, swinging the bat. Rialmo retreated while opening fire. LeGrier and Jones were both killed.
The LeGrier and Jones families both sued the city and Rialmo. Rialmo, in turn, sued the LeGrier estate. The Jones estate eventually received a $16 million settlement. At the conclusion of a 2018 trial, the LeGrier estate was initially awarded just over $1 million, but it was nullified when the jurors said, effectively, that Rialmo was justified in opening fire on LeGrier. The LeGrier estate asked for a new trial, but they were denied.
During evidentiary hearings last summer, attorneys for the city said Rialmo should have known not to fire because the officer had seen Jones just seconds earlier when she opened the door for him.
“Whether or not Officer Rialmo physically saw Ms. Jones at the time he fired the shots doesn’t matter because he knew she was there,” Jim Fieweger, an attorney representing the CPD, said during his closing argument.
Attorneys for Rialmo argued that Jones’ death was LeGrier’s fault.
“As tragic as it may be that Bettie Jones died, it’s the acts of Quintonio LeGrier that caused Bettie Jones to die, not Officer Rialmo,” Jim Thompson, one of Rialmo’s attorneys, said during his closing argument.
“‘Tragedy’ is an understatement, in my mind, for what happened to Ms. Jones,” Rialmo said earlier this year. “She’s the victim.”
Though there are nine members of the police board, only eight will weigh in on the case. Johnson initially said he believed the shooting was justified, while the Civilian Office of Police Accountability ruled it unjustified and recommended Rialmo be fired. The disagreement meant that a single member of the police board had to decide whether the case should advance or if it should be dropped altogether.
Board member Eva-Dina Delgado opted to advance the case, which triggered the superintendent’s charges against Rialmo. Since she settled the disagreement between Johnson and COPA, Delgado recused herself from voting on Rialmo’s future. With eight voting members of the board remaining, five would have to agree on any potential punishment.
After the shooting, Rialmo was involved in two bar scuffles. The first, which occurred in late 2017, resulted in Rialmo facing criminal battery charges. He was acquitted after a two-day trial in July 2018. Just a few days later, he was in another fight that was captured on cellphone video.