CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago Police Board on Thursday decided to fire Officer Robert Rialmo over a the 2015 shooting that killed 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier and 55-year-old Bettie Jones.
The board’s vote was unanimous.
Last November, Police Supt. Eddie Johnson recommended Rialmo be fired, eight months after calling the shooting justified. The superintendent accused Rialmo of violating five department rules: conduct impeding the department’s efforts to achieve its policy, and bringing discredit on the department; disobeying an order or directive; inattention to duty; incompetency; and unlawful or unnecessary use of a weapon.
On the day after Christmas 2015, Rialmo and his partner were responding to calls about a domestic disturbance at LeGrier’s father’s home. Jones, who lived downstairs, opened the door and directed the officers to the apartment where LeGrier was staying with his father.
LeGrier, apparently suffering from mental health problems, came running down the stairs with a baseball bat. Rialmo fired eight shots, six of them hitting LeGrier, one of them hitting Jones, who was standing behind the teenager.
Police Board President Ghian Foreman read the board’s ruling, which said in part: “This tragic case raises difficult, but important questions about when a police officer may use deadly force – specifically in this instance in which he knew, or reasonably should have known, that an innocent bystander was in his line of fire.”
Foreman added, “Officer Rialmo had an obligation to reexamine his options in light of the presence of Ms. Jones.”
He said the board had ruled that Rialmo’s deadly use of force was “objectively unreasonable” given the totality of the circumstances and thus he must be fired.
In December 2017, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability recommended Rialmo be fired, asserting investigators they found no evidence to support Rialmo’s claim the shooting was necessary.
In March 2018, Johnson rejected COPA’s finding, calling the shooting “justified and within department policy.”
“An investigation should not second-guess an officer’s decisions by suggesting how COPA itself would have resolved the incident. Instead, an investigation must address the question of whether the officer, while making split-second decisions in tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving circumstances, acted as another reasonable department member on the scene would have done,” Johnson wrote in a letter responding to COPA’s finding.
With COPA and Johnson unable to reach an agreement on what disciplinary action Rialmo should face, a police board member ruled Rialmo would face a hearing by the full board to determine if he should be fired.
Months after calling the shooting justified, Johnson reversed course and filed disciplinary charges with the police board, recommending Rialmo be fired over Jones’ death. However, the charges make no mention of LeGrier.
During a civil trial, it was found that Rialmo was justified in the shooting after he argued he feared for his life. But Foreman said the jury was only asked if the use of force was reasonable when it came to LeGrier, but not when it came to Jones.