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Judge rejects Robert Rialmo’s bid to rejoin Chicago Police Department

Rialmo, 31, sued the city and the Chicago Police Board in an effort to overturn the board’s October 2019 decision to fire him. Cook County Judge Neil Cohen last week found in favor of the city and board, court records show.

Chicago Police Officer Robert Rialmo is shown leaving court at the Daley Center last year.
Former Chicago police officer Robert Rialmo at the Daley Center in 2018.
Sun-Times file

A Cook County judge has denied former Chicago police officer Robert Rialmo’s bid to return to the department.

Rialmo was fired last year for fatally shooting Bettie Jones, 55, in December 2015. He also shot and killed 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier, a student at Northern Illinois University who charged at Rialmo with an aluminum baseball bat. The shooting of LeGrier was not considered in Rialmo’s firing.

Rialmo, 31, sued the city and the Chicago Police Board in an effort to overturn the board’s October 2019 decision to fire him. Cook County Judge Neil Cohen last week found in favor of the city and board, court records show.

Tim Grace, one of Rialmo’s attorneys, said “what happened to Bettie Jones was terrible,” though he plans to appeal Cohen’s decision.

Kathleen Fieweger, a spokeswoman for the city’s Law Department, said in an emailed statement: “We are pleased with this important ruling, because it affirms the City’s ability to maintain standards of conduct for all police officers, particularly in the context of events in which innocents bystanders are harmed.”

A representative for the police board declined to comment.

Rialmo and his partner were dispatched to the 4700 block of West Erie Street in the early hours of Dec. 26, 2015, after several calls were made to 911 to report a domestic disturbance between LeGrier and his father.

LeGrier was in the midst of a mental health episode, and his father barricaded himself in his bedroom while the younger LeGrier tried to get in with the bat. LeGrier’s father called Jones, who lived downstairs, and asked her to open the front door for police when they arrived.

Once Rialmo and his partner, Anthony LaPalermo, arrived at the two-flat, Jones opened the door and motioned to the officers that the problem was coming from the second floor. Rialmo has testified that he was standing on the building’s front porch, while LaPalermo was standing a few feet behind him and to his left.

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

Moments later, LeGrier came charging down the stairs with the bat and took a swing at Rialmo, who was able to duck out of the way. Rialmo then opened fire, fatally striking both LeGrier and Jones. It remains unclear if Jones was hit by an errant bullet or one that passed through LeGrier’s body.

The shooting happened during a particularly fractious time between the police department and the city’s communities of color. A month earlier, the city was ordered to release the Laquan McDonald shooting video and the city was embroiled in protests.

After the shooting, the LeGrier and Jones families both sued Rialmo and the city. Shortly before going to trial, the city agreed to a $16 million settlement with the Jones estate — one of the largest in the city’s history.

And though a Cook County jury awarded the LeGrier estate $1.05 million after an eight-day trial in 2018, that money was immediately nullified because jurors said the shooting of LeGrier was justified.

Later that year, former police Supt. Eddie Johnson filed administrative charges against Rialmo for shooting Jones. The Chicago Police Board voted 7-0 to fire Rialmo in October 2019.