Some black Council members decry Supt. Johnson’s decision in fatal shooting case
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African-American aldermen who are among Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson’s staunchest supporters were stunned and outraged by the superintendent’s decision to back a Chicago Police officer who fatally shot two people in 2015.
Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus, branded it a “bad shooting” and said he can see no way to justify Johnson’s decision to argue Officer Robert Rialmo was within department guidelines when he fired the shots that killed Quintonio LeGrier and innocent bystander Bettie Jones in December 2015.
Johnson disagreed with the finding by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, which found the shootings unjustified and says Rialmo should be fired. The Sun-Times obtained Johnson’s letter to COPA — a letter the city wanted kept under wraps.
“The reaction [in the community] is going to be outrage. People are gonna be quite upset because, this is an innocent woman who got shot answering the door,” Sawyer said.
Sawyer noted that LeGrier was suffering from mental illness and had called police repeatedly for help that never came.
“I don’t think shooting him was a responsible thing to do. The bullet that hit Bettie Jones obviously was not meant for her. But still, all she was trying to do was open the door . . . I don’t see under any situation where that shooting would be justified,” Sawyer said.
“It’s horrible. I’m not trying to dispute what the superintendent says — what information he has that I don’t have. But I would be alarmed to say this was a justified shooting . . . From what I’ve heard, he was coming at the officer with a bat. But it sounds like it was wholly preventable.”
Sawyer was asked whether he believes the Police Board should overrule the superintendent and fire Rialmo.
“I think they need to look at criminal charges against him, quite honestly . . . And at the very minimum, he should be discharged from his job,” he said.
West Side Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) was stunned when she heard about the superintendent’s decision.
“There will be a backlash because two people got killed — an innocent bystander and a mentally-ill person,” Mitts said.
“People will be upset about it. They’ll think he should have been found guilty — not have the shooting ruled justifiable.”
Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) added, “Community people will be upset about it . . . seeing that COPA found the shootings were unjustified and the superintendent has overruled that. People will want to understand why. That’s critical. Why did he make that decision?”
Ervin acknowledged that “questions could be raised” about LeGrier, who “had a weapon in his hand.” But Bettie Jones is another story. She was killed even though she “just happened to be there.”
“That’s a tough pill to swallow,” he said.