The Civilian Office of Police Accountability’s December 22 ruling determined that LeGrier did not provoke officer Robert Rialmo, who fired bullets at LeGrier, 19, and Jones, 55, during a reported domestic disturbance on Chicago’s West Side on December 26, 2015. Rialmo had maintained that he fired in retaliation after LeGrier lunged at him with a baseball bat down a flight of stairs. Jones, who stood behind LeGrier, was hit in the crossfire. However, LeGrier did not swing a bat at Rialmo, the COPA said in documents obtained by the Chicago Tribune through an open records request.
Shell casings, witness statements and forensic analysis also suggested that the officer was not as close to LeGrier when he fired his gun, the COPA said. A claim that Rialmo also shot the teen from the building’s front porch was also disputed in the shooting that sent several Black Chicagoans into outrage against police brutality after the slaying of Chicago teen Laquan McDonald.
Janet Cooksey, LaGrier’s mother, said she was happy that the ruling confirmed her belief that her son did not provoke the officer’s use of lethal force. “Each time they mention Quintonio and Bettie (Jones), they would always make it like my baby caused her death,” she said. “And I know he didn’t. I knew he was just as much a victim as she was. He was innocent too.”
Larry Rogers Jr, a lawyer for the Jones’ family, also expressed similar sentiments. “It’s what we’ve been saying since the beginning — this was an unjustified shooting of Bettie Jones and now, COPA acknowledges, even Quintonio LeGrier,” he said.
Rialmo’s attorney, Joel Brodsky, referred to the COPA ruling as a “political decision,” ABC Chicago reported.
But what may happen to Rialmo in the wake of this ruling? The COPA usually recommends that officers in unjustified shootings are terminated. Police superintendent Eddie Johnson has up to three months after the recommendation is made to decide if any punishment will happen, a decision that will be closely watched with reports of officers getting away with misconduct in shootings of African Americans.
Events after the shooting may also factor into whether Rialmo will be disciplined. A lawsuit introduced by the city of Chicago, but later withdrawn, placed blame and some financial liability for Jones’ death from the city onto LeGrier’s estate. This suit may complicate any possible efforts to discipline Rialmo, observers of the case have said.