CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson backs officer in LeGrier shooting

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Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson is coming to the defense of a police officer who shot and killed two people. (WLS)

Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson is defending a police officer who shot and killed two people.

In a letter dated March 22, Johnson said he disagrees with a recommendation to fire Officer Robert Rialmo, the police officer who fatally shot 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier and his downstairs neighbor, Bettie Jones, 55, on the day after Christmas 2015.
"It was an exoneration of Rialmo, finding that the shooting was justified," said Rialmo's attorney Joel Brodsky.

Rialmo was one of the officers who responded to a domestic disturbance call at LeGrier's father's West Side home. The officer said that he shot LeGrier when the teen, who reportedly suffered from mental illness, came down the stairs swinging a baseball bat at him.

An autopsy later showed LeGrier was shot six times.

LeGrier's father, who initiated the 911 call, had asked Jones to open the door for officers. She was standing behind the door when LeGrier came down the stairs with the aluminum bat. She was shot in the chest and died.

Bettie Jones, 55, and Quintonio LeGrier, 19, were fatally shot by police.

The Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) determined months ago that Rialmo was unjustified in firing on LeGrier, saying that the teen never swung the bat at the officer and citing forensic evidence inconsistent with the officer's story.

COPA's ruling stated that a "reasonable officer" would not have felt threatened by the encounter that lead to the shooting.

According to published reports, Johnson wrote in his letter to COPA that he disagrees with their findings and believed the shooting of LeGrier was justified.

"He is a police officer, he did his job, and I do not believe he should be punished for doing the job he was asked to do," said Kevin Graham, president of the Fraternal Order of Police.

Well-known community activist Father Michael Pflaeger immediately disagreed, tweeting, in part, that he was "both saddened and outraged," and that "This is why building relations with the community and police is so difficult."

There was extensive legal fallout following the shooting.

LeGrier's father and Jones' family filed separate wrongful death lawsuits against the city within weeks of the shooting.

In December 2017, the City of Chicago asked a federal judge to approve a lawsuit against Quintonio LeGrier's estate, alleging that he was responsible for the shooting death of Jones. The city dropped plans to sue his estate the following day.

The Cook County State's Attorney's Office announced in February 2017 that no charges would be filed against Rialmo, concluding that "there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Officer [Robert] Rialmo did not act in self-defense in shooting LeGrier and Jones."

Attorneys for the family of LeGrier have filed an emergency motion in court arguing that the contents of Johnson's letter should not have been leaked.

A judge ordered that Johnson's letter be placed under seal through the first week of April. Johnson will next have to meet with the civilian oversight board to see if they can come to an agreement on their decisions.

As all of this plays out, Rialmo is still on desk duty, stripped of his police powers.
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