CHICAGO — A judge presiding over the wrongful death lawsuit against Chicago Officer Robert Rialmo for the fatal shooting of Quintonio LeGrier, 19, in 2015 reversed a jury finding in favor of the teen’s family.
The Cook County jury awarded $1.05 million to LeGrier’s parents, Janet Cooksey and Antonio LeGrier. The family was asking for $12-$25 million. However, Judge Rena Marie Van Tine reversed the decision after learning the jury also found Rialmo feared for his life when responding to a call of a disturbance. The judge’s decision means that the family will not get any money.
In making their decision, jurors signed a special interrogatory finding that Rialmo fired in reasonable fear of death or great bodily harm. Van Tine found the interrogatory outweighed the decision for LeGrier’s estate and found in Rialmo’s favor.
Jurors deliberated for about three and a half hours before reaching a verdict in the wrongful death civil lawsuit against Rialmo on Wednesday.
The jurors acted after attorneys for the estate of the 19-year-old LeGrier urged them to consider evidence and testimony indicating most of the five bullet wounds the victim suffered were in the back. They said Rialmo was too far from LeGrier when he opened fire to claim he feared an imminent threat.
Rialmo fatally shot LeGrier and his neighbor, Bettie Jones, while responding to a disturbance call in 2015.
“Quintonio was not a threat to him, period,” said plaintiff’s attorney Basileios Foutris.
The jury also found in favor of Rialmo in his lawsuit filed against the LeGrier estate for the infliction of emotional distress. However, the jury didn’t award him any money.
Jury foreman, David Fitzsimmons, said jurors discussed that they didn’t believe Rialmo was a bad person, just that he made a bad decision at the moment.
Rialmo’s defense attorneys believed that the strained, on-again off-again relationship LeGrier’s parents had with their son factored into the jury’s decision not to award any money for pain and suffering. LeGrier was raised by a legal guardian until he turned 18.
Attorney Joel Brodsky posted Rialmo’s response to Wednesday’s decision on his Facebook page.
“I will always regret that I was forced to end the lives of two people, and even being justified does not change the fact that it was a tragedy for everyone, including the people of Chicago, who I only wanted to help and protect,” the statement said.
Rialmo fatally shot 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier five times about 4:30 a.m. Dec. 26, 2015, while responding to a disturbance call at LeGrier’s father’s apartment in the 4700 block of West Erie Street.
Neighbor Bettie Jones was also shot and killed during the incident.
Rialmo and his partner said LeGrier charged at the pair with a bat; Rialmo insisted he was acting in self-defense when he opened fire. A forensic pathologist who testified for LeGrier’s family last week said the evidence was inconsistent with Rialmo’s version of events.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office previously declined to file criminal charges against Rialmo. The Civilian Office of Police Accountability declared the shooting unjustified and said Rialmo should be fired. Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson disagreed.
An autopsy revealed LeGrier had marijuana in his system. Officials said the teen had mental health problems and had had previous run-ins with police.
Two years after Jones’ shooting, city lawyers reached a tentative $16 million financial settlement with her family.
LeGrier called 911 three times the morning he was shot. In February 2016, city officials said two 911 operators were suspended without pay for failing to send police when LeGrier was shot. It wasn’t until the third call that the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications sent a squad car to check on the 19-year-old.