Chicago officer involved in shooting teen sues his family for 'trauma'

CHICAGO -- A white Chicago police officer who fatally shot a black 19-year-old college student and accidentally killed a neighbour has filed a lawsuit against the teenager's estate, arguing the shooting left him traumatized.

See Full Article

The highly unusual suit was filed Friday in the middle of the city's effort to grapple with serious questions about the future of its police force. Those questions include the adequacy of its system for investigating police shootings and how to win back public trust after several cases of alleged misconduct. The U.S. Justice Department is conducting a wide-ranging civil rights investigation, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel has promised a major overhaul of the Police Department and steps to heal its fraught relationship with black residents.

The timing and unusual nature of the suit by officer Robert Rialmo, who is seeking $10 million in damages, could complicate the department's efforts to demonstrate more sensitivity toward the community in how police shootings are handled. His attorney, Joel Brodsky, said it was important in the charged atmosphere to send a message that police are "not targets for assaults" and "suffer damage like anybody else."

The teen's father, Antonio LeGrier, filed a wrongful death lawsuit days after the Dec. 26 shooting, saying his son, Quintonio, was not armed with a weapon and was not a threat. His attorney, Basileios Foutris, was incredulous at what he called the officer's "temerity" in suing the grieving family of the person he shot.

"That's a new low even for the Chicago Police Department," he said. "First you shoot them, then you sue them."

The lawsuit provides the officer's first public account of how he says the shooting happened, offering details that differ with the family's version. It says Rialmo, who was responding to a domestic disturbance call with another officer, opened fire after Quintonio LeGrier swung a bat at the officer's head at close range. A downstairs neighbour, 55-year-old Bettie Jones, was standing nearby and was shot and killed by accident. She was not part of the domestic dispute.

"The fact that LeGrier's actions had forced Officer Rialmo to end LeGrier's life and to accidentally take the innocent life of Bettie Jones has caused, and will continue to cause, Officer Rialmo to suffer extreme emotional trauma," the filing says.

When arriving at the scene around 4:30 a.m. on Dec. 26, Rialmo rang the doorbell of the two-story apartment building. Jones answered and directed them to the upstairs apartment. As Rialmo stepped through the doorway, he heard someone "charging down the stairway," the suit says.

It describes the teen coming down the stairs with a baseball bat in hand and says LeGrier "cocked" the bat "and took a full swing at Officer Rialmo's head, missing it by inches" when the two were around four feet (1.2 metres) apart.

The officer then backed away with his weapon still holstered, according to the suit, while repeatedly shouting at LeGrier to drop the bat.

But the suit says LeGrier kept advancing and swung the bat again. Only when LeGrier cocked the bat again from three or four feet away, did the officer pull out his 9 mm handgun and open fire, the filing says.

As he began firing, Rialmo did not see or hear Jones behind LeGrier, the suit says. It says one of the bullets went through LeGrier's body and struck Jones, killing her.

An autopsy determined that LeGrier suffered six bullet wounds.

Lawyers for Antonio LeGrier and for Jones have provided accounts that differ from Rialmo's. They say the evidence indicates the officer was 20 or 30 feet (six to nine meters) away when he fired, calling into question Rialmo's contention that he feared for his life.

Foutris also questions why the teen would attack the officer since he was the one who called police. The father of the Northern Illinois University student also made an emergency call to police.

"If you're calling multiple times for help are you going to charge a police officer and try to hit him with a bat? That's ridiculous," Foutris said.

County prosecutors have asked the FBI to investigate the shooting.

A Police Department spokesman refused to comment on the officer's lawsuit.

Such a lawsuit by an officer is extraordinarily unusual, said Phil Turner, a former federal prosecutor and current defence attorney who is not connected to the case.

He questioned whether a judge would give it any merit and said it appeared intended to intimidate LeGrier's family. He said he had never heard of an officer blaming his shooting victim for causing trauma.

"That is a known part of the job," Turner said of policing's emotional toll.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Suspension casts clouds over shipbuilding

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA — The suspension of the military's second-highest-ranking officer has cast a pall over the federal government's multibillion-dollar plan to build new warships, which the Liberals had hoped was finally back on course after listing for years.Government and military officials remained tight-lipped Wednesday over why Vice-Admiral Mark Norman was abruptly stripped of his responsibilities last week by his boss, Gen. Source
  • Debt with dishonour

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    Better sit down. Pull up a chair at the kitchen table, you and your spouse and the two kids. Keep everyone away from sharp objects. I’ve got a shocking number for you. A Canadian family of four — yes, you — pays $7,009 a year toward government debt. Source
  • Even before taking office, Trump has changed the presidency

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Donald Trump enters the White House on Friday just as he entered the race for president: defiant, unfiltered, unbound by tradition and utterly confident in his chosen course. In the 10 weeks since his surprise election as the nation's 45th president, Trump has violated decades of established diplomatic protocol, sent shockwaves through business boardrooms, tested long-standing ethics rules and continued his combative style of replying to any slight with a personal attack -- on…
  • N.S. store owner funding alternative prom for students affected by teachers' dispute

    Canada News CTV News
    A Cape Breton store owner who says she was devastated by the thought of students not having a prom is stepping up to ensure thousands of high school students get to have a final dance. Source
  • 91-year-old man to attend 18th presidential inauguration

    World News CTV News
    SALEM, N.J. -- Although he's a Democrat who voted for Hillary Clinton, a 91-year-old New Jersey man will still be travelling to Washington to witness his 18th presidential inauguration in person. WCAU-TV reports B. Source
  • Hundreds of Congolese rebels have fled military camp in Uganda

    World News CBC News
    Members of the M23 rebel group wait to be flown to the Democratic Republic of Congo as part of a handover to the DRC government in 2014. More than 100 members of M23 have disappeared from a camp in Uganda where they'd been awaiting amnesty. Source
  • 'Get out of here': La Loche school shooting survivors speak about deadly day

    Canada News CTV News
    Phyllis Longobardi remembers hearing two blasts before she saw the gun. The assistant principal at the La Loche high school in northern Saskatchewan remembers that the lunch bell had rung on Jan. 22, 2016, and she was coaxing students to get to class. Source
  • Could the oilsands really be phased out? Here are the possibilities

    Canada News CBC News
    The question of whether Canada should phase out oilsands production seems to have an easy answer, depending on whom you ask. It is either a ridiculous idea, or a ridiculously obvious one. Does Canada care about its economy, or does it care about meeting its Paris climate objectives? Source
  • Inauguration to usher in a 'ringmaster president' and much uncertainty: Chris Hall

    Canada News CBC News
    Donald Trump is a day removed from becoming the 45th president of the United States, swept to power on a wave of voter disenchantment with politics as usual in Washington and a staunch belief that Trump's boast of making America great again is something real. Source
  • Canada Revenue Agency monitoring Facebook, Twitter posts of some Canadians

    Canada News CBC News
    The Canada Revenue Agency is scrutinizing the Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and other social media posts of Canadians it suspects could be cheating on their taxes. That's just one example of the agency's increasing focus on what it can learn by collecting and analyzing many kinds of data — both its own internally generated information and what it calls "publicly available information. Source