The Chicago Police Board moved to fire Officer Robert Rialmo Thursday night, nearly four years after he fatally shot Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones on the West Side.
The board voted 7-0 in favor of termination — with two members of the board recusing themselves — revealing its decision during their monthly meeting at Chicago Police headquarters in Bronzeville.
“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 its decision. “Had Officer Rialmo done so, he could have neutralized the threat posed by Quintonio LeGrier, and Bettie Jones would be alive today.”
During a contentious public comment period after the vote was taken, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 2nd-Vice President Martin Preib said the board made “a despicable, depraved and cowardly decision” that would endanger police officers across the city.
Tim Grace, an attorney for the FOP, said the union plans to file a lawsuit in the next 35 days to challenge the Police Board’s decision.
“This is an important day for the citizens of the City of Chicago,” Sydney Roberts, chief administrator of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, said in a statement. “The conclusion of this unfortunate matter is also an important day for civilian oversight of law enforcement.”
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 at 4710 W. Erie after several calls of a domestic disturbance came in to the city’s 911 center.
Quintonio LeGrier’s father had barricaded himself in his second-floor bedroom as his son, 19, was trying to get in with an aluminum baseball bat. LeGrier, a student at Northern Illinois University, was in the midst of a mental health episode and both he and his father had called 911.
The elder LeGrier had asked his downstairs neighbor, 55-year-old Bettie Jones, 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.
CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson initially said he believed the shooting to be within department policy, despite COPA ruling 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 30-year-old Marines veteran, last November. 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.
Rialmo was faulted for shooting Jones, but not LeGrier. Both 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.
Part of Rialmo’s charges also stemmed from his failure to get recertified to carry a Taser before the day of the shooting. Before walking to the door of 4710 W. Erie, Rialmo left his baton in the police van that he and his partner drove to the LeGrier home. With his certification lapsed, he didn’t have a Taser, either.
Since the shooting, Rialmo has been 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. The second remained under investigation by COPA as of Thursday, an agency spokesman said.