Two years after a family lost their teenage son when he was shot and killed by a police officer, the city of Chicago filed a lawsuit against the family for the death of a neighbor who was killed by the officer’s gunfire.
Quintonio LeGrier, 19, was shot six times by a police officer who opened fire in an apartment complex on Dec. 26, 2015—also killing Bettie Jones, 55, a neighbor who was standing nearby. In addition to losing their son and their beloved neighbor, the family of LeGrier found themselves facing a lawsuit from the city, holding them accountable for the ordeal.
According to a report from the Chicago Tribune, the lawsuit stemmed from allegations that Officer Robert Rialmo only opened fire because LeGrier tried to hit him with a baseball bat. Because Rialmo was found not guilty in the shooting, the lawsuit argues that he acted out of self-defense, and LeGrier’s estate should be held responsible for Jones’ death.
“The idea would be if the jury found the city was liable to the Jones’ family, the city wanted the LeGrier family to pay Jones instead of the city. That’s disgusting,” said Basileios Foutris, LeGrier’s estate attorney.
However, it should be noted that while there were reports that LeGrier had a baseball bat, there is no evidence that he had access to a lethal weapon, such as a gun. While initial reports claimed that LeGrier’s father called police and asked for help with his son, who was home from college for Christmas and having a mental breakdown, 911 records claim Quintonio also called police.
NBC Chicago noted that Quintonio LeGrier called police three times around 4:30 a.m. He repeatedly told the dispatcher, “I have an emergency, someone’s threatening my life,” and gave the address of his father’s home, asking officers to come as soon as possible.
Police then received a call from his father, Antonio LeGrier, who said, “My son’s attempting to break inside my bedroom door. He’s got a baseball bat in his hand.”
Jones, a mother of five, agreed to wait by the front door to instruct police officers on where to find Quintonio when they arrived, but she lost her life when she and Quintonio were both shot and killed near the front door of the building.
As NBC Chicago reported, while “an official Medical Examiner’s report suggests the shots were fired in the hallway,” attorneys familiar with the physical evidence from the case claim it “suggests the officers fired from the curb.”
As most families do when their loved one is killed by police, and the officer who is responsible is not convicted, the families of LeGrier and Jones have filed wrongful death lawsuits. However, in an unusual move, Officer Rialmo also filed a lawsuit.
As if it was not enough to get away with killing two innocent citizens and facing no consequences for his reckless actions, Rialmo filed a lawsuit against the Chicago Police Department, claiming that he was inadequately trained. He also filed a lawsuit against LeGrier’s family, claiming that the shooting caused him “emotional trauma.”
The same police officer who chose to fire multiple rounds from several feet away at a teenager who was reportedly armed with a baseball bat is seeking $10 million in damages for the trauma that HE experienced.
Sadly enough, the city of Chicago wanted in on the action too, and it wanted LeGrier’s family to also help pay for the wrongful death of Bettie Jones. The lawsuit argued that Quintonio LeGrier had a history of mental health issues during his time as an engineering student at Northern Illinois University, and on the night of his death, he “failed to take prescribed medication to control his mental illness.”
LeGrier’s erratic behavior in the three calls he made to police should have alerted them that they may be dealing with a man who had mental health issues and was not in his right mind. There is also the fact that Rialmo fired eight rounds towards LeGrier, even though he knew Jones was standing near him, and would likely be shot as well.
The LeGrier family’s attorney, Basileios Foutris, called the lawsuit a “sick” and “twisted” attempt to distract from the fact that Robert Rialmo should never have been on the street.
“It’s not enough to kill people,” Foutris said. “Now you gotta go ahead and sue them.”
Luckily, however, as this case began to get media coverage, the city was forced to retract the suit.
“We are constantly evaluating and reevaluating our legal strategies, and we have determined the motion is not the best course of action,” said Bill McCaffrey of the City of Chicago Department of Law.
“I felt like the City of Chicago had reached a new low,” said Janet Cooksey, LeGrier’s mother.
Claiming he had no idea his staff had filed a lawsuit against the innocent parents of a teen boy killed by police, Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the move “callous” and then issued an apology.
“This was a mistake, it should never have been done in the first place,” said Emanuel.