CHICAGO (CBS) — The officer at the center of the fatal police shooting of two people in 2015 was expected to testify Tuesday at the trial stemming from a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of the teenager he killed.
Officer Robert Rialmo wasn’t in court for opening statements on Monday at the Daley Center. His attorney, Joel Brodsky, said it was in Rialmo’s interest not to appear.
Rialmo shot and killed 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier and his 55-year-old neighbor, Bettie Jones, on Dec. 26, 2015. Rialmo and his partner were responding to a domestic dispute when Rialmo opened fire on LeGrier, killing him, and accidentally killing Jones, who was standing behind LeGrier.
Brodsky has argued Rialmo was forced to shoot when LeGrier came at him with a baseball bat, saying the two were only a few feet away from each other when the officer shot. He also has claimed the city did not properly train Rialmo.
However, LeGrier’s family has challenged the officer’s account of the shooting, claiming he was outside on the sidewalk, several yards away from the teenager inside the front hall, making LeGrier no threat to Rialmo.
While Rialmo has testified for two depositions before trial, Tuesday will mark the first time he’s told his story in open court.
The jury that will hear Rialmo’s version of the shooting does not include any African Americans. That’s a concern for both sides in the case. Rialmo is white and LeGrier was black.
“That’s always a concern; but that’s the American way, unfortunately,” said Jim Montgomery, the attorney for LeGrier’s mother, Janet Cooksey.
Brodsky said he was disappointed attorneys representing the city excluded the only two black candidates in the jury pool for the trial.
“I would have felt much better, and I think Officer Rialmo, too. If an innocent verdict is brought in, and there’s representatives from the African-American community on the jury, there would have been no question then,” Brodsky said.
Rialmo and the city are separate defendants in the case.
Jones’ family also filed a wrongful death lawsuit in the shooting, but the city has reached a tentative $16 million settlement agreement in that case.