With Quintonio LeGrier trial over, Robert Rialmo still faces legal hurdles
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While the Quintonio LeGrier wrongful death trial ended in Officer Robert Rialmo’s favor Wednesday, the legal headaches for the embattled officer are not over.
Rialmo, 29, still faces possible discipline from the Chicago Police Board for the shooting of LeGrier and Bettie Jones in December 2015. He is also facing criminal charges for his role in a fight in a Northwest Side restaurant last December. That fight, which was captured on video, is also still under investigation by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, the city’s police oversight agency.
On Wednesday, though, a jury of six men and six women unanimously agreed that when Rialmo shot LeGrier, he reasonably believed “that such force was necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or [his partner] Anthony LaPalermo.”
That finding effectively wiped out the $1.05 million in damages that the jury had awarded to the LeGrier estate just minutes earlier because, by finding that Rialmo was justified in the shooting, no damages could be awarded.
Rialmo’s attorney, Joel Brodsky, issued a statement on his behalf after the verdict, saying in part: “I’m glad the truth came out and it’s a big sigh of relief for myself and my family. That was a tragic night and I’ll have to live with what happened for the rest of my life.”
Shortly after the shooting, the LeGrier and Jones estates filed wrongful death lawsuits against Rialmo and the city. Rialmo, in turn, counter-sued the LeGrier estate for assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The jury found in his favor in the emotional distress claim Wednesday, but awarded Rialmo no money.
Earlier this month, the city settled with the Jones estate for $16 million.
Authorities said Jones was an innocent bystander fatally struck by an errant bullet.
For its part, COPA said that the shooting of LeGrier and Jones was not justified and that Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson should recommend Rialmo be fired.
Soon after, Johnson rejected COPA’s findings and recommendation, concluding for himself that “Officer Rialmo’s actions were justified and within department policy.”
The dispute sent the case to a single member of the Chicago Police Board, who opted that it be heard by the entire board, which will decide Rialmo’s future with the police department.
Last December, Rialmo was involved in a fight at a restaurant in Edison Park, the Northwest Side neighborhood that is home to scores of police officers, firefighters and other city workers.
Note: Incident begins at 1:36 mark in top-right corner of video.
Rialmo was captured on surveillance video punching two other men. Police records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times said that one was knocked unconscious and another suffered a cut.
An arrest warrant was issued for Rialmo, who has been on desk duty since the LeGrier/Jones shooting. He turned himself in at the CPD’s 1st District station in the South Loop and he was charged with two counts of misdemeanor battery and one count of misdemeanor theft.
Brodsky, who is also representing him in that case, told the Sun-Times that case will go to trial next month.
COPA, meanwhile, is still investigating the fight.
Rialmo and LaPalermo responded to 4710 W. Erie about 4:25 a.m. on Dec. 26, 2015, after LeGrier and his father had both made calls to police. The elder LeGrier had barricaded himself in his room with a 2 x 4 a few hours earlier, and he was awoken when his son tried to force his way inside.
Rialmo and LaPalermo arrived and were met at the door by Jones, the elder LeGrier’s downstairs neighbor. Rialmo has said that, as the officers were on the small front porch to the property, the younger LeGrier came down the stairs and around the door with an aluminum baseball bat raised above his head. Rialmo said that he backpedaled off the porch and opened fire.
The LeGrier estate argued that the physical evidence at the scene shows that Rialmo was in the walkway and that LeGrier was still in the vestibule of the building when he was shot.