No criminal charges will be filed against a Chicago Police officer who fatally shot 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones in 2015, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office announced Friday.
The decision comes more than a year after Officer Robert Rialmo opened fire on LeGrier, whom the officer said charged down the staircase of a Garfield Park duplex and swung a baseball bat at him. Rialmo fired eight shots, according to the state’s attorney’s report on the investigation, striking LeGrier and Jones, who was standing behind the teen.
Prosecutors said there was no basis for a criminal charge, because they could not prove that the officer was not acting in self-defense, according to a news release announcing the decision.
“After thorough review, the Office of the Cook County State’s Attorney has concluded that there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Officer Rialmo did not act in self-defense in shooting LeGrier and Jones,” according to the statement.
The decision outraged Jones’ and LeGrier’s families, who have sued Rialmo and the city in civil court. At a news conference Friday at a downtown law office, LeGrier’s father said he was “appalled,” both by the failure to prosecute the case and the fact that Rialmo has not been fired by the Chicago Police Department.
“The fact that [Rialmo] may be out there, able to harm somebody else in Chicago makes me wonder: where is the justice?” Antonio LeGrier said.
Rialmo’s attorney, Joel Brodsky, issued a statement Friday, in which the officer expressed remorse for the shootings, but said he had been poorly prepared for what he encountered at the duplex. Brodsky said Rialmo offered the following statement to the Jones and LeGrier families:
“I just want you to know that I wish I didn’t have to shoot, but I had no choice,” he said. “I think about what happened to (Bettie) and Quintonio every day, I will have to live with that for the rest of my life, and being right does not make it any easier.”
Rialmo — who has sued the Chicago Police Department after being taken off the street, as well as countersued LeGrier’s estate — has said in court records that before he opened fire, LeGrier swung a baseball bat at him in the foyer of the duplex apartment where Jones lived and where LeGrier, a student at Northern Illinois University, had been visiting his father.
Rialmo said police dispatchers did not make him aware that LeGrier might have been in the throes of a mental-health crisis when Rialmo and his partner were sent to the building. He also said the department didn’t provide him with adequate training or equipment to deal with mentally ill suspects.
Rialmo was assigned to desk duty after the shooting, but then was reassigned to street duty for several months over the summer, a decision police officials have described as a mistake. The Independent Police Review Authority still has not concluded its investigation of the shooting, and Rialmo remains on desk duty, Chicago Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Friday.
The shooting on Dec. 26, 2015, was the first fatal shooting by a Chicago police officer to come after the release of video of one of the department’s officers gunning down 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, images that spurred protests across the city and a wave of reforms.
State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, who was campaigning to unseat incumbent Anita Alvarez in the 2016 primary election, had lambasted Alvarez’s handling of the McDonald investigation.
But Foxx recused herself from Rialmo’s case and was not involved in the decision whether to bring charges against Rialmo, because Foxx worked at the law firm that is representing Jones’ family in their lawsuit against the city.
Bill Foutris, lawyer for LeGrier’s family, said Friday that the decision not to prosecute Rialmo showed Foxx was only paying lip service to promises to hold police accountable for misconduct now that she has replaced Alvarez.
“It’s another example of one law enforcement agency covering for another one,” Foutris said. “The players may have changed, but the justice system has not.”
Larry Rogers, lawyer for Jones’ family, said the report on the investigation also failed to mention “damning evidence” that Rialmo fired his weapon at LeGrier, whose body fell inside the door to the duplex, from the sidewalk outside the house, some 14 feet away. That evidence conflicts with Rialmo’s version of events, Rogers said.
“You can’t be scared to lose (at trial),” Rogers said. “(Rialmo) should have been held accountable like any other citizen … let a jury decide.”