(CBS) — Police oversight investigators have ruled that Chicago Police Officer Robert Rialmo was “not justified” when he opened fire on Quintonio LeGrier two years ago in the vestibule of a West Side home, a shooting that left LeGrier and a 55-year-old bystander dead, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.
Investigators found no evidence to back up Rialmo’s story that he was prompted to shoot when LeGrier swung a bat while running at him, according to a Civilian Office of Police Accountability report released Thursday. Bettie Jones was “tragically” killed by an errant gunshot, police have said.
COPA investigators said they found “no evidence” to support Rialmo’s assertions that any of the shots he fired on Dec. 26, 2015 were necessary. After the incident, Rialmo had claimed LeGrier, 19, swung a baseball bat at him.
But Thursday’s report said Rialmo’s statements were “inconsistent and ultimately unreliable.”
The investigators also say evidence they reviewed suggested that Rialmo was further from Legrier than he said he was when he fired.
Legrier was shot dead in the front-entrance vestibule of the apartment building where he was staying with his father.
“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,” the investigators stated.
Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson now has up to 90 days to decide whether to recommend Rialmo’s firing to the Chicago Police Board, which metes out punishment in officer misconduct cases.
“We take discipline very seriously but, it would be premature for the department to make any comments until our review is complete,” CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in an email.
But COPA’s report vindicated the long-running assertions of Legrier’s father, Antonio, who was at home when Rialmo shot his son and Jones, his tenant in the building he owned.
Basileios “Bill” Foutris, the lawyer for Antonio Legrier, blasted police and lawyers for Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration on Thursday, saying they should stop perpetuating the CPD’s “code of silence” that has enveloped this and other shootings by officers.
“They tried to cover this up from Day 1,” Foutris said. “They’ve been lying about what happened from Day 1. This is the first step in clearing the air and setting the record straight.”
In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times on the day of the shootings, Antonio Legrier said Rialmo “knew he had shot, blindly, reckless into the doorway and now two people are dead because of it.”
The shootings of Legrier and Jones came about a month after the city finally released video of an officer fatally shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald on the South Side.
Rialmo, who was taken off the street and assigned to desk duty in the wake of the shooting, has sued LeGrier’s family and the city, citing emotional trauma and improper training. He has continued to collect his $84,054 salary, city payroll records show.
The city also filed suit against LeGrier’s estate, a move that was quickly rescinded last week and decried as a “callous” mistake by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
In February, the Cook County state’s attorney’s office announced it would not pursue criminal charges against Rialmo.
“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,” a statement read.
The decision outraged Jones’ and LeGrier’s families, who have sued Rialmo and the city in civil court. At the time, LeGrier’s father said he was “appalled” by the failure to prosecute and the fact that Rialmo had not been fired from the police department.
Police reports obtained by the Sun-Times had indicated that Rialmo gave shifting accounts of the Dec. 26, 2015, shooting in interviews with detectives.
Rialmo and his partner, Anthony LaPalermo, arrived at the home of the elder LeGrier around 4:38 a.m. after he and his son had both placed calls to 911. The cops were driving a police van that wasn’t equipped with a GPS tracking device or dashcam when they pulled up to the two-flat at 4710 W. Erie, the newly obtained records show.
Jones — Antonio LeGrier’s downstairs neighbor — let police in. Police have said she was accidentally killed when Rialmo opened fire.
According to Rialmo’s interview less than two hours after the shooting, he said he rang the doorbell, and Jones motioned that there was trouble upstairs. Jones, 55, “turned to walk back into her apartment” when “Quintonio LeGrier pulled the front door all the way open” with the bat above his head. He’d been staying with his dad while on break from Northern Illinois University.
“Rialmo started to back up as LeGrier started onto the front porch” and drew his gun while ordering LeGrier to drop the bat. “Rialmo in fear of his life discharged his weapon three to four times. … Rialmo stated he was stepping backwards down the stairs while discharging his service weapon and stopped at the bottom of the [porch] stairs on the walkway leading to the house.”
But COPA investigators now say Rialmo was much further from Legrier, between the curb in front of the apartment building and the stairs.
The Cook County medical examiner later determined that LeGrier was shot six times and Bettie Jones once.
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire copy; Chicago Sun-Times 2017. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)