Cook County prosecutors decided to not press charges against Officer Robert Rialmo for shooting Qunitonio LeGrier, 19, and his neighbor Bettie Smith, 55, the day after Christmas in 2015.
Rialmo arrived on the scene after Chicago police dispatchers received four calls about a dispute between LeGrier and his father. Three of the calls came from LeGrier himself, the Chicago Tribune reports.
When Rialmo and his partner arrived, the officers approached the front door. That’s when Rialmo claims his partner tapped him on the shoulder and he withdrew his weapon, firing eight shots at LeGrier while walking backwards down the front steps. Jones, who was standing behind LeGrier, was shot once in the chest.
Prosecutors claimed that there wasn’t enough evidence to prove that Rialmo didn’t think that he and his partner were in “imminent danger,” despite the casings from his gun being found 14 feet away from LeGrier and Jones’ bodies.
They also cited that, under Illinois law, a person acting in self defense can’t be held legally responsible if a bystander is accidentally killed. Which means that Rialmo isn’t even responsible for killing Jones.
“There is absolutely no justification for the use of excessive force in that instance,” said Larry Rogers Jr., the attorney representing Jones. “Bettie Jones was at her home. She was in her house. She was doing everything right that day. … To suggest this is a justifiable shooting is to ignore the objective evidence.”
Rialmo, who at one point filed a countersuit against LeGrier’s family, released a statement doubling down on his innocence.
“I have always known in my heart that I did not do anything wrong,” Rialmo was quoted as saying in the statement. “I wish that Mr. LeGrier would have been able to get help and treatment for his mental illness, and that the situation did not escalate to the point where I had no choice but to use deadly force.”
He doesn’t expect the families of either victims to forgive him for his actions that day.
“Being right does not make it any less of a tragedy that two people are dead and I was the cause of their deaths,” he said. “I will have to live with that for the rest of my life.”
This ruling appears to continue a legacy in Chicago where police officers who kill civilians will never see any punishment for it. Jason Van Dyke shot Laquan McDonald in October 2014 and there’s still been no justice after months of preventing the release of footage.
State’s Attorney Kim Foxx heavily criticized then – State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez for her actions, or lack thereof – during the McDonald shooting. However, Foxx wasn’t involved in the case of LeGrier and Jones because Jones’ family is being represented by her former employer.
Many viewed the Department of Justice’s investigation into Chicago law enforcement as a victory. Instead, it can be viewed as a confirmation of suspicions many civilians already had and a premature victory and distraction from a number of unresolved police shootings that are yet to see their day in court.