CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel said it was a “callous” mistake for city attorneys to file a motion seeking to sue the family of a 19-year-old man killed by a Chicago police officer in 2015, and the city has dropped the plan for a lawsuit.
The mayor said he had no idea the city’s Law Department had moved to sue the estate of Quintonio LeGrier, who was shot and killed by Officer Robert Rialmo on Dec. 26, 2015. Rialmo also accidentally shot and killed 55-year-old Bettie Jones, a neighbor who was standing near LeGrier at the time.
The city’s lawsuit would have sought to blame LeGrier for Jones’ death. Rialmo has said LeGrier was attacking him with an aluminum baseball bat, and he fired in self defense.
Emanuel said it was “callous” to try to sue LeGrier’s family, and the motion has been withdrawn.
“I called the father, Antonio, today, and I said, ‘On behalf of the Law Department, I apologize,’” Emanuel said. “Like I’ve talked to him before, and met with him before, we had a good conversation, and he was incredibly gracious and understanding.”
City attorneys announced the plans to drop the lawsuit Friday morning, less than a day after filing their motion to go after LeGrier’s estate.
“The city is dropping the motion filed yesterday in the civil suit regarding the death of Bettie Jones. We are constantly evaluating and reevaluating our legal strategies, and we have determined the motion is not the best course of action,” spokesman Bill McCaffrey said in an email.
LeGrier’s mother, Janet Cooksey, said the city dropped its plan to sue the family “because they know it’s ridiculous.”
“The city of Chicago has reached a new low,” she said.
Rialmo shot and killed LeGrier and Jones while responding to a domestic dispute.
On Dec. 26, 2015, police were called to an apartment building in the 4700 block of West Erie Street for a domestic incident involving LeGrier and his father. Police said “were confronted by a combative subject” holding a baseball bat and that an officer fired his weapon.
Rialmo shot LeGrier six times, while Jones, who was LeGrier’s neighbor, was struck with one fatal gunshot to the chest.
Jones was not involved in the dispute, and the Chicago Police Department immediately acknowledged her death was a tragic accident. However, at the time of the shooting, police said LeGrier was “combative” with officers before Rialmo opened fire.
Rialmo has acknowledged knowing Jones was standing near LeGrier when he opened fire, but his attorney has said that doesn’t mean the officer violated department protocol.
“If someone’s trying to kill you have a right to act in self-defense, even if it endangers somebody else nearby you,” attorney Joel Brodsky told CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov last month.
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability, which investigates police use of force, has not yet ruled on whether the shooting was justified, but the city faces wrongful death lawsuits from LeGrier’s and Jones’ families.
Earlier this year, Cook County prosecutors decided not to seek criminal charges against Rialmo.
In an unusual move, Rialmo also has filed a lawsuit against LeGrier’s estate for assault and emotional distress, alleging the teen was attacking him with an aluminum baseball bat. Rialmo also has sued the Chicago Police Department, alleging he was not adequately trained.