Rialmo Firing

The four-year saga of CPD Officer Robery Rialmo ended with his termination from the Department as announced by the Chicago Police Board Thursday October 17th.

RialmoRialmo was up on departmental charges stemming from his on-duty shooting that resulted in the deaths of Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones. If you want to read all the details involved in the case there is plenty of media coverage which can be found at this link. If you want to read the charges and the decision for yourself you can follow this link and click on download the original case files to download the documents. 

This blog is going to review the Chicago Police Board’s ruling in the case.

“…when Officer Rialmo fired his gun in the direction of Bettie Jones, he had the ability to safely reposition himself even farther than he already had from Mr. LeGrier. Had Officer Rialmo done so, he could have neutralized the threat posed by Quintonio LeGrier, and Bettie Jones would be alive today. Officer Rialmo had an obligation to reexamine his options in light of the presence of Ms. Jones and take all reasonable precautions to avoid shooting her—as all officers have an obligation to act in a manner to protect innocent persons around them.”

Chicago Police Board Decision 10/17/19
If you wonder why the Board is writing out
such detailed findings in their decisions it is because they were
mandated to do so when the reforms to their operations were passed back in 2011. CJP played a substantial role in authoring the reforms to the Board’s operations that were passed by the Chicago City Council.

This is one of the vital points in the entire case. As we will see below Rialmo seems to have known that Jones was behind LaGrier but fired anyways even though as his testimony will show there really doesn’t seem as if there was an imminent threat of deadly force he had to confront. It is true that LeGrier had a bat but Rialmo’s own testimony states that at the time he fired Rialmo had stopped advancing and had stopped swinging the bat.   

“The Cook County medical examiner’s autopsy indicates that Quintonio LeGrier was 5’7” tall and weighed 145 pounds. The autopsy’s accompanying toxicology report shows that while there was marijuana in Mr. LeGrier’s system, there was no evidence of any other drugs, including PCP, in his body. Officer Rialmo testified he was 6’1” or 6’2”tall and weighed about 205 pounds.”

Chicago Police Board Decision 10/17/19

I am not sure just how important his is but it is interesting that Rialmo perceived LaGrier to be 6 to 7 inches taller and 60 pounds heavier than he really was. One would have to think this played some role in the shooting but just how important it is isn’t really clear. 

“Officer Rialmo testified that when Bettie Jones answered the door and told him that the disturbance was upstairs, she was standing in the vestibule, immediately inside the exterior door and to the left (where Evidence Tag B is pictured in Superintendent’s Exhibit1, at pp. 414 and 424). After pointing upstairs, Ms. Jones turned toward her apartment, but to Officer Rialmo’s knowledge, never actually went back inside. Indeed, Officer Rialmo acknowledged that at the time Quintonio LeGrier came through the interior door, Ms. Jones was still in the vestibule. On the question of whether Ms. Jones went back inside her apartment, Officer Rialmo admitted that Ms. Jones did not have time to go back into her apartment, having insufficient time to do anything other than stand there and look back. At the last point at which Officer Rialmo saw Ms. Jones (after Rialmo had backed out onto the porch), she was standing in the vestibule facing towards the exterior door.”

Officer Rialmo testified that as he heard the noise of someone charging down the stairs, his first reaction was to create some distance between himself and whoever was coming down the stairs because that would give him a better opportunity to assess what was going on and determine how to respond. He agreed that creating more distance gave him more time and more time translated into more safety. Officer Rialmo had one foot in the vestibule when he first heard Quintonio LeGrier coming down the stairs, but consistent with his desire to create distance, he backedup onto the porch as he heard LeGrier making his way down the stairs. As Quintonio LeGrier appeared, Officer LaPalermo reached out and touched or grabbed Officer Rialmo’s shoulder and told him to “Watch out.” (Tr., at p. 88.)

When Quintonio LeGrier emerged from the vestibule, he was armed with a baseball bat. Seeing the bat, Officer Rialmo testified he ordered LeGrier to drop the bat (“what felt like”) ten times. As he ordered LeGrier to drop the bat, Officer Rialmo was continuing to reposition back down the steps toward the walkway. (Tr., at p. 80.) As this was happening, LeGrier took a right-handed swing at Officer Rialmo with the bat, striking downward as if chopping wood and extending his arms fully. He missed Officer Rialmo, who continued to back down the stairs while facing LeGrier. LeGrier then swung the bat back up a second time, but again missed Rialmo. Each time LeGrier swung the bat, Officer Rialmo’s gun was in his holster.

Officer Rialmo did not pull his weapon from his holster until he had repositioned himself all the way to the bottom of the steps. By his own account, when he fired, Officer Rialmo was eight to ten feet from Quintonio LeGrier.6 Officer Rialmo testified that Mr. LeGrier was standing upright on the front of the porch at the time he fired and was no longer swinging (or chopping) the bat.7 Officer Rialmo fired seven or eight shots in LeGrier’s direction, which all lasted barely more than a second. According to Officer Rialmo, LeGrier clutched his chest when hit and turned toward the building. LeGrier’s body landed face down in the vestibule with his feet over the threshold of the exterior door. The bat landed in the vestibule as well.

At the time Officer Rialmo fired his weapon at LeGrier, the door where he had just seen Bettie Jones was directly behind LeGrier. Officer Rialmo conceded that when he shot in the direction of Quintonio LeGrier, he was also shooting in the direction of where he had just seen Ms. Jones. Officer Rialmo did not give Ms. Jones any warning and did not take steps to alter his position so that Ms. Jones would not be in the line of his fire. One of Officer Rialmo’s bullets killed Ms. Jones. Another of his bullets traveled through Bettie Jones’s apartment and lodged itself in a glass block inside the bathroom where Latisha Jones (Ms. Jones’sdaughter) was located during the shooting.8

Officer Rialmo testified that “immediately after the shooting and just as [he was] going to approach [the porch]” he looked back to see where Officer LaPalermo was located. (Tr., at p. 90.) Officer LaPalermo was standing on West Erie, in the street behind a parked car.

Chicago Police Board Decision 10/17/19

Citing the Officer’s testimony, you can see that he did not fire immediately when confronted by LaGrier but instead repositioned himself to get distance between himself and the threat, then waited for LaGrier to stop swinging the bat at him, and then fired multiple shots. All of this with Bettie Jones in the line of fire.”

Does this make any sense? Sometimes officer involved shootings are understandable given the circumstances but this one sounds really bizarre. It certainly seems as if Rialmo waited for LaGrier to stop being an immediate threat to those around him before he started shooting. It seems pretty clear that these actions would be a violation of CPD’s rules. They most certainly are a violation of how the residents of Chicago want their officers to operate. 

Another interesting point detailed here is just different in how the officers re-positioned themselves. Rialmo backed up several feet when repositioning himself to get distance between himself and the LeGreir but his partner positioned himself on the street behind a parked car which is multiple times farther away than Rialmo did. 

Now the Board’s response to LaPalermo’s testimony.

“Officer LaPalermo testified consistently with Officer Rialmo regarding the circumstances that put the two of them on the porch at 4710 West Erie. He also agreed that he was next to Officer Rialmo as they knocked on the door and as they interacted with Bettie Jones, and that he was so close to Officer Rialmo that he nudged him and yelled “look out”as LeGrier emerged from the stairway with a bat. Officer LaPalermo’s account diverges from Officer Rialmo’s at that point, with LaPalermo testifying that as LeGrier emerged from the building, LeGrier was “on top of my partner [Rialmo] ”with both hands holding the baseball bat above his head.(Tr., at pp. 561–62.)

From there, Officer LaPalermo testified that he never actually saw LeGrier swing the bat at Officer Rialmo, nor did he hear Officer Rialmo’s commands to drop the bat. He also claims that he did not see the actual shooting itself. Officer LaPalermo explains this by stating that he pulled his gun while on the top step of the porch, and he then looked down and jumped to the bottom of the stairs, positioning himself in the grass to the left of the stairs. Because Officer Rialmo was between him and Mr. LeGrier, Officer LaPalermo says he did not fire his weapon.20. While Officer LaPalermo claims that Officer Rialmo was backpedaling down the porch stairs as he was firing at LeGrier, the Board does not credit this testimony, as it is inconsistent with the testimony of Officer Rialmo, who testified that he did not start shooting until he was all the way down the porch stairs and back on the walkway. In addition, Officer LaPalermo’s credibility is undermined as he offered contradictory testimony that he did not see Officer Rialmo firing any of the shots. The Board also does not accept LaPalermo’s testimony that Mr. LeGrier was “on top of his partner,” as it is also inconsistent with Officer Rialmo’s own testimony that Mr. LeGrier was eight to ten feet away from him when Officer Rialmo decided to fire his weapon.

Officer LaPalermo further testified that after he saw Quintonio LeGrier fall from the shots Officer Rialmo fired, he radioed for more cars, and only then backpedaled to the middle of West Erie to take cover behind a parked car. The Board does not credit this portion of LaPalermo’s account, as it is inconsistent with Officer Rialmo’s testimony that immediately after the shooting, he turned and saw Officer LaPalermo in the street taking cover behind a parked car.9”

Chicago Police Board Decision 10/17/19

Well, there certainly seems to be a problem because there are distinct contradictions between Rialmo’s and LaPalermo’s testimony. If we believe one officer and not the other doesn’t that mean the other officer committed a rule 14 violation

“Rule 14          Making a false report, written or oral.”

It certainly seems that if the Board does indeed believe Rialmo’s testimony that the CPD should immediately open an investigation of LaPalermo’s false testimony. It is clear from Rialmo that LaGrier was not on top of him when he pulled his gun and fired. Testimony saying otherwise is just false. It is not an opinion whether or not LaGrier was on top of Rialmo there is science to prove that he was not and also Rialmo’s testimony that is consistent with the science.

The other interesting point to LaPalermo’s testimony is that he says Rialmo had to fire because LaGrier was on top of him but in the same testimony wants you to believe he did not see the shooting. How in the hell can that be possible? Well, it cannot be. Also, a trained police officer was hiding when the shooting happened and not supporting his partner? Just more evidence that there are at least two Rule 14 violations. 

There is much more witness testimony that is discussed with the Board’s decision. I strongly recommend that everyone read the complete decision. It is clear that while Rialmo may have had a reason to fire when LaGrier came down the steps with the bat he certainly didn’t once Rialmo stopped advancing and stopped swinging the bat.

 

Author: Tracy Siska

Tracy Siska is the Founder and Executive Director of the Chicago Justice Project.

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