Updated 3:19 p.m.
Chicago police officer Robert Rialmo on Monday said he did not have time to warn Bettie Jones or aim away from her when he shot at Quintonio LeGrier in 2015. Rialmo described the shooting under oath as part of a hearing to decide whether he should be fired for the shooting that killed LeGrier and Jones.
Rialmo testified that he was forced to shoot after LeGrier, 19, charged toward him swinging a bat. He said he did not mean to shoot Jones, 55, who had opened the door for police and who Rialmo described as an “innocent bystander.”
This week’s hearing is one of the last steps in the deliberative process of the Chicago Police Board, which will ultimately vote on whether Rialmo should be fired. He is charged with incompetent or inefficient performance of duty and unnecessary use of a weapon, among other charges. Those charges are based on an investigation by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, which found that Rialmo was unjustified in shooting Jones and LeGrier.
A Cook County jury determined last year that Rialmo was in reasonable fear for his life when he opened fire as part of a civil trial over LeGrier’s death.
Rialmo’s attorney Tim Grace said that jury’s finding was one of several “600-pound elephants” the city was asking the Police Board to ignore in their quest to fire Rialmo. However, that civil trial focused on the death of LeGrier, not Jones. Her death was rarely mentioned as the city had previously paid $16 million to Jones’ family to settle the lawsuit over her death.
In his opening statement Monday, Grace said the death of Jones was a tragedy, but should be blamed on LeGrier because his actions forced Rialmo to shoot.
City attorney Sarah Lash described LeGrier as a “19-year-old kid,” and said that although LeGrier had a bat, he was not close enough to Rialmo to threaten the officer’s life. Lash said Rialmo acted “in reckless disregard for the very thing he swore to protect, which was Bettie Jones’ life.”
The evidentiary hearing is expected to last three days. Video of the hearing, along with a transcript and a report from the hearing officer, will be given to the nine members of the Police Board who will vote on whether Rialmo should be fired. A decision is not expected for at least another month or more, according to a police board official.
Patrick Smith is a reporter on WBEZ’s Criminal Justice desk. Follow him @pksmid.