CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson has concluded Officer Robert Rialmo was justified when he fatally shot 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier, and accidentally shot and killed 55-year-old Bettie Jones in 2015, rejecting a recommendation to fire the officer.
In December, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability ruled Rialmo was not justified when he opened fire on LeGrier in the vestibule of a West Side home; killing him and Jones, an innocent bystander. COPA recommended Rialmo be fired.
Sources say Johnson has rejected COPA’s findings in a letter he sent to the agency last Thursday, and argued the shootings were justified and within department policy.
Chicago Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi declined to comment about Johnson rejecting COPA’s findings.
“We’re not confirming any action as we are unable to comment on what is an ongoing deliberative process between the Superintendent and COPA,” Guglielmi stated in an email.
A Law Department spokesman confirmed the superintendent sent a letter to COPA regarding the agency’s findings in the Rialmo case, but could not confirm the contents, which were protected by a gag order issued by a judge overseeing lawsuits filed by the Legrier and Jones families. Johnson had until last Thursday to respond to COPA’s report on the case.
Johnson and COPA now have 10 days from last Thursday to confer on the case and try to reach an agreement. COPA then has five days to issue final findings. If the superintendent and COPA can’t agree, the matter would to to a member of the Chicago Police Board, to either accept Johnson’s decision, or refer the case to the full board for hearings on possibly firing Rialmo.
COPA investigators said they didn’t find any evidence to back up Rialmo’s claims he was prompted to shoot LeGrier when the teenager charged at him swinging a baseball bat on the day after Christmas 2015. Jones was killed as she stood behind LeGrier.
The COPA report said Rialmo’s statements were “inconsistent and ultimately unreliable.” Investigators also said evidence suggested Rialmo was further away from LeGrier than he claimed when he opened fire.
“We find a reasonable officer in Officer Rialmo’s position would not have believed he was in imminent harm of death or great bodily harm at the time Officer Rialmo began firing his weapon,” investigators stated.