The Civilian Office of Police Accountability, a Chicago oversight board, has found that the December 2015 police-involved shooting deaths of a 19-year-old college student and a 55-year-old grandmother were unjustified.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the board underlined that there was no evidence to support Officer Robert Rialmo’s claims that the student, Quintonio LeGrier, approached officers with a baseball bat in a threatening manner.
On top of that, a neighbor, Bettie Jones, a bystander to the violence, was also killed by the officer’s gunfire.
The ruling, which was dated Dec. 22, detailed evidence that LeGrier did not swing the bat at Rialmo, as the officer had claimed. Other evidence, including shell casings, witness statements and forensic analysis, indicated that Rialmo was apparently farther away from LeGrier when he fired than he initially said he was.
According to the Tribune, LeGrier fell in the vestibule of the apartment building. Rialmo said that he fired from the building’s front porch. However, it has since been determined that it was more likely that Rialmo fired from between the bottom of the porch and the sidewalk outside.
A “reasonable officer,” the board concluded, would have had no reason to believe that he was in danger of death or serious injury.
It was not immediately made public what recommendations for punishment disciplinary authorities made, but the Tribune notes that the Civilian Office of Police Accountability usually recommends termination for officers involved in unjustified shootings. After that, Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson will have three months to decide what form of discipline, if any, he will take.
Rialmo’s attorney, of course, is paid to argue for his client, and he claimed that the agency’s ruling cast the evidence in a misleading light, pointing out that LeGrier appeared to be suffering from a mental health crisis during the incident.
“I challenge anybody not to feel that their life was in danger in such a situation,” he said. “This is a political decision, not one based on the evidence. ... This has got nothing to do with facts.”
LeGrier’s mother, on the other hand, is thankful that someone sees her son’s death for what it was.
“Each time they mention Quintonio and Bettie, they would always make it like my baby caused her death. And I know he didn’t. I knew he was just as much a victim as she was. He was innocent, too,” she said.
It is worth noting that the Cook County District Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute Rialmo in February, claiming that there was insufficient evidence (evidence that COPA managed to get its hands on, but I digress) that Rialmo was not acting in self-defense.
Earlier this month, just to add insult to injury, attorneys for the city of Chicago announced that they were toying with the idea of suing LeGrier’s family, claiming that he—a teen suffering through a mental health crisis—was to blame for Jones’ death.
Rialmo himself filed a lawsuit against LeGrier’s estate on the grounds of emotional distress and assault, claiming that the teen forced Rialmo to kill him. Rialmo also sued the city of Chicago, saying that he was not properly trained to handle tense encounters with those with mental illness.
Read more at the Chicago Tribune.