January 8th, 2018 2:25 PM
Weeks after the city's police oversight body recommended that the police officer who fatally shot Quintonio LeGrier, 19, and Bettie Jones, 55, two years ago in West Garfield Park be terminated, a group of West Side clergymen, community leaders and politicians are calling for a special prosecutor to investigate the officer.
In December, an administrator with the Civilian Office of Police Accountability wrote a letter to Chicago Supt. Eddie Johnson recommending the termination of Officer Robert Rialmo after the oversight body's investigators ruled that the fatal shots Rialmo fired at the two civilians were "not justified."
Rialmo shot LeGrier and Jones on Dec. 26, 2015, after responding to a call about a domestic disturbance. LeGrier, according to officers, had been wielding a bat while arguing with his father. Rialmo has contended that he felt threatened by LeGrier and was in fear of his life as the teenager approached him.
According to the police report, Rialmo "started to back up as LeGrier started onto the front porch." The officer, according to the report, had drawn his gun while ordering the teenager to drop the bat
In their report, released late last month, COPA investigators stated that Rialmo was further away from the teenager than his report indicated and that "a reasonable officer in Officer Rialmo's position would not have believed he was in imminent harm of death or great bodily harm at the time Officer Rialmo began firing his weapon."
Rialmo's lawyer, Joel Brodsky, as well as a representative with the Fraternal Order of Police, expressed disappointment with the ruling, with Brodsky claiming that the investigators' findings in the report accompanying it were "politically motivated."
The Cook County State's Attorney's Office announced last February that it would not file any criminal charges against Rialmo, who was nonetheless taken off the streets and put on paid desk duty.
Since the shooting, multiple lawsuits have been filed between the parties involved. The Jones family sued both the city and Rialmo, who himself has filed a lawsuit against the Chicago Police Department, alleging that he was inadequately trained, and against the estate of LeGrier, alleging emotional distress. Last month, the city sued the estate of LeGrier before scrapping the litigation shortly afterward.
During a Jan. 4 press conference held downtown, a group of West Side community leaders urged Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the shooting of Jones and LeGrier.
"This officer should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," said Rev. Marshall Hatch, pastor of New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church in West Garfield Park, who buried both LeGrier and Jones. The latter's family attends Hatch's church.
Hatch and other leaders also presented Foxx with a letter signed by "family members, faith leaders, political leaders and neighbors of Bettie Jones and Quintonio LeGrier."
But Foxx responded to the West Side leaders' recommendations by reinforcing her office's ruling in February.
Dear Cook County State's Attorney Foxx:
This letter is a part of our efforts to obtain justice in the death of Bettie Jones and justice and vindication in the death and memory of Quintonio LeGrier. That justice will only be obtained by your appointment of a special prosecutor to determine the truth of what happened on Erie Street the morning after Christmas 2015.
As you are aware, there are several significant obstacles in ascertaining the true facts of the matter. There are discrepancies in the varied statements Officer Robert Rialmo has made about his decision to shoot and kill. Officer Rialmo's partner on the scene did not corroborate testimony about Quintonio's alleged threat to police. The incident was not properly reported to the Cook County Medical Examiner and the C.C.M.E was not notified of police-involved shootings, thus the premises remained open and unsecured for evidence gathering.
Given the recent COPA findings of the "unjustified" weapon use and "unreliable" testimony from Officer Rialmo, the appointment of a special investigator with prosecutorial powers is needed to help build community trust in our criminal justice system in this case.
We are family members, faith leaders, political leaders, and neighbors of Bettie Jones and Quintonio LeGrier. We request that your response to our request be transparent and urgent.
Mr. Gary Mullen, father of LaTisha & LaTasha Jones
Pastor Marshall Hatch, New Mount Pilgrim & Leaders Network
Pastor Ira Acree, Greater St. John Church & Leaders Network
Pastor Cy Fields, New Landmark Church & Leaders Network
Commissioner Richard Boykin, 1st District Cook County
Mr. Karl Brinson, Westside NAACP
Ms. Deborah Williams, Westside NAACP
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