A Chicago police officer has filed a lawsuit against the estate of 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier, who he previously shot and killed, claiming that the incident has left him traumatized.
The lawsuit, filed late Friday, claims that LeGrier attempted to attack officer Robert Rialmo, forcing the officer to open fire. Six bullets hit LeGrier during the incident, killing him. Neighbor Bettie Jones, a 55-year-old mother of five, was accidentally killed during the incident when a bullet pierced her heart.
"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, according to The Associated Press.
"That's a new low even for the Chicago Police Department," Basileios Foutris, attorney for LeGrier's father, told the AP. "First you shoot them, then you sue them."
Details surrounding the death of LaGrier have been shrouded in controversy. LeGrier called 911 three times that night, asking police to come to his home, saying his life was in danger but declining to give specific details to dispatchers. Officers were only dispatched to the scene after the third call. His father also called 911 one time, claiming his son was attempting to break into his room.
Police believed there was a dispute between father and son.
The 911 call-taker was disciplined by the Chicago Office of Emergency Management for not immediately dispatching a unit when a caller claimed their life was in danger. However, the call-taker will remain on duty "until the discipline process is complete,” OEMC spokeswoman Melissa Stratton told the Chicago Sun Times.
In initial reports, the police said that LeGrier came outside the home with a baseball bat when Officer Rialmo shot him. In the suit filed last week, the officer publicly described the incident at length for the first time from his own perspective.
Rialmo claims he rang the doorbell to the home and LeGrier's father opened the door, directing him to the upstairs bedroom. As he entered, Rialmo heard someone "charging down the stairway," the suit says, according to the AP. It then says LeGrier "cocked" a baseball bat and took a swing at the officer's head, missing by a matter of inches. The officer then backed away with his gun still holstered, yelling for LeGrier to drop the bat, it says.
Then the suit claims that LeGrier cocked the bat again at close range, when the officer shot him.
Lawyers for LeGrier's family have presented testimonies that counter that narrative, indicating that evidence suggests the shooting happened from 20 to 30 feet away.
Two wrongful death suits have been filed against the city of Chicago following the incident: one by LeGrier's family and one by the family of Jones, the neighbor who was accidentally killed.
In previous statements to Fusion, Joel Brodsky, the attorney for officer Rialmo, told Fusion that the officer hopes to recover any money the family might get from the lawsuit, or any funds the family might receive from insurance.
“If LeGrier would have lived he would have probably been charged with felony murder for Ms. Jones’ death,” Brodsky said.
The officer is asking for $10 million in damages.
The lawsuit comes amid an effort by the city of Chicago to restore trust in the police department in general, and the police department's ability to investigate itself in particular. The department is currently under investigation from the Department of Justice, following allegations that the city attempted to cover-up the officer-involved death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, before being compelled to release video of the incident and filing charges against the officer who shot him.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has responded to the criticism by replacing several key players in the city's police force, including placing new blood at the head of the city's Independent Police Review Authority, the office that investigates police shootings.
"It has become clear that new leadership is required as we rededicate ourselves to dramatically improving our system of police accountability and rebuilding trust in that process,” Emanuel said in a statement announcing the move.
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.