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Fired CPD officer Robert Rialmo files lawsuit to get his job back

Rialmo shot and killed Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones in 2015. His attorneys argue that the Chicago Police Board’s decision to terminate him was “contrary to law and sound public opinion.”

Chicago police Officer Robert Rialmo, the officer who shot and killed Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones in December 2015, arrives for court at the Daley Center on May 29, 2018. | Max Herman/For the Sun-Times
Robert Rialmo arriving for a court hearing at the Daley Center in May 2018.
Max Herman/For the Sun-Times

A month after he was fired, former Chicago Police Officer Robert Rialmo this week filed a lawsuit to get his job back.

Rialmo’s attorneys argue that the Chicago Police Board’s decision to terminate him was “contrary to law and sound public opinion” and was “arbitrary, capricious and unrelated to the requirements of service.”

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, is asking for a Cook County judge to reverse the board’s decision and reinstate Rialmo with back pay. The first hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled in March.

The board — the body that metes out discipline for police officers — voted unanimously last month to terminate Rialmo, 30, for his role in the fatal December 2015 shooting of Bettie Jones, 55, in the 4700 block of West Erie.

Rialmo also shot and killed 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier, who was in the midst of a mental health episode and charged at Rialmo with an aluminum baseball bat. The charges brought against Rialmo by Supt. Eddie Johnson did not relate to the killing of LeGrier, only Jones.

Bettie Jones and Quintonio LeGrier. | Provided photos
Bettie Jones and Quintonio LeGrier.
Provided photos

“Upon examination of the facts of this case, the Board finds that when Officer Rialmo fired his gun in the direction of Bettie Jones, he had the ability to safely reposition himself even farther than he already had from Mr. LeGrier,” the board said in announcing its decision. “Had Officer Rialmo done so, he could have neutralized the threat posed by Quintonio LeGrier, and Bettie Jones would be alive today.”

Martin Preib, the 2nd Vice President of the Fraternal Order of Police, the union representing rank-and-file CPD officers, said the board made “a despicable, depraved and cowardly decision” that would endanger police officers across the city.

Johnson, the city and Police Board were all named as defendants. Representatives for the city and CPD declined to comment Thursday. Rialmo’s attorneys and a representative for the police board could not be reached.

Shortly before 4:30 a.m. on Dec. 26, 2015 — just a month after the city released the Laquan McDonald shooting video — Rialmo and his partner were dispatched to the two-flat on Erie Street after several calls of a domestic disturbance came in to the city’s 911 center.

LeGrier’s father had barricaded himself in his second-floor bedroom as his son was trying to get in with an aluminum baseball bat. Both LeGrier, a student at Northern Illinois University, and his father had called 911.

The elder LeGrier had asked Jones, his downstairs neighbor, to open the door for officers when they got there.

When Rialmo and his partner arrived — Rialmo was standing on the front porch with his partner in the walkway — Jones motioned to the upstairs unit. Moments later, LeGrier came charging down the stairs with the bat.

What happened next has been the subject of much dispute. Attorneys for the LeGrier estate argued that Rialmo retreated several feet off the front porch as LeGrier came down the stairs. Rialmo testified that LeGrier took a swing at him with the bat as he stood on the porch, coming within inches of his head.

In any event, Rialmo opened fire, killing both LeGrier and Jones.

Johnson initially said he believed the shooting to be within department policy, despite Civilian Office of Police Accountability’s ruling that the shooting was unjustified and recommending Rialmo be fired. The disagreement meant that a single member of the board had to decide if the full board would hear the case. Board member Eva-Nina Delgado opted to move Rialmo’s case forward last year and, as is board policy, she was recused from the final vote. Another member of the board, John O’Malley, also recused himself from the vote.

Johnson filed several charges against Rialmo, a Marines 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.

Both LeGrier and Jones’ families sued Rialmo and the city, and the Jones estate reached a $16 million settlement. A Cook County jury initially awarded the LeGrier estate just over $1 million in summer 2018, but that was immediately nullified when jurors said, effectively, that the shooting was justified.