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Johnson Reverses Course, Recommends Officer Rialmo Be Fired For Fatal Shooting Of Bettie Jones

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Months after saying Officer Robert Rialmo was justified in a shooting that left two people dead, including an innocent bystander, Police Supt. Eddie Johnson has asked the Chicago Police Board to fire Rialmo for violating department rules in the 2015 shooting that killed 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier and 55-year-old Bettie Jones.

The superintendent accused Rialmo of violating five department rules: conduct impeding the department's efforts to achieve its policy, and bringing discredit on the department; disobeying an order or directive; inattention to duty; incompetency; and unlawful or unnecessary use of a weapon.

The charges make no mention of LeGrier, focusing largely on Jones' death.

On the day after Christmas 2015, Rialmo and his partner were responding to calls about a domestic disturbance at LeGrier's father's home. Jones, who lived downstairs, opened the door and directed the officers to the apartment where LeGrier was staying with his father.

LeGrier, apparently suffering from mental health problems, came running down the stairs with a baseball bat. Rialmo fired eight shots, six of them hitting LeGrier, one of them hitting Jones, who was standing behind the teenager.

In December 2017, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability recommended Rialmo be fired, asserting investigators they found no evidence to support Rialmo's claim the shooting was necessary.

In March, Johnson rejected COPA's finding, calling the shooting "justified and within department policy."

"An investigation should not second-guess an officer's decisions by suggesting how COPA itself would have resolved the incident. Instead, an investigation must address the question of whether the officer, while making split-second decisions in tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving circumstances, acted as another reasonable department member on the scene would have done," Johnson wrote in a letter responding to COPA's finding.

With COPA and Johnson unable to reach an agreement on what disciplinary action Rialmo should face, a police board member ruled Rialmo would face a hearing by the full board to determine if he should be fired.

Seven months later, Johnson has filed disciplinary charges with the police board, recommending Rialmo be fired over Jones' death. However, the charges make no mention of LeGrier.

Fraternal Order of Police spokesman Martin Preib questioned Johnson's decision to ask the police board to fire Rialmo.

"It was our understanding that the superintendent has determined this shooting was justified. The FOP and our members would be sorely disappointed if the leadership of the department has changed that decision," Preib stated in an email.

The charges accuse Rialmo of disobeying an order, inattention to duty, bringing discredit on the department, and unlawful use of a weapon for fatally shooting Jones.

The superintendent also charged Rialmo with bringing discredit on the department, inattention to duty, and incompetency, for improperly firing his weapon into a home occupied by a person who would be at risk of injury or death.

The charges finally accuse Rialmo of disobeying an order, inattention to duty, and incompetency for failing to requalify to carry a Taser between Feb. 6, 2014, and March 16, 2017.

A COPA spokesman said the agency supports the charges Johnson filed against Rialmo.

"Following our investigation and recommendation for officer Rialmo's discharge, COPA supports the superintendent's decision to advance this case to the police board seeking discharge from the Chicago Police Department," COPA spokesman Ephraim Eaddy stated in an email

Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the superintendent could not comment on the case until the police board rules on the charges.

The Police Board said an initial hearing for the charges against Rialmo has been scheduled for Dec. 4

Cook County prosecutors declined to file criminal charges against Rialmo in the shooting.

In June, a Cook County jury returned an unusual verdict against Rialmo in a civil lawsuit filed by LeGrier's family. The jury concluded Rialmo believed his life was in danger when he shot LeGrier, but awarded LeGrier's family $1.05 million in damages, calling the shooting unjustified. As a result of those contradictions, a judge negated the monetary damages, because of the jury's finding that Rialmo feared for his life.

Jones' family agreed to settle their wrongful death lawsuit against the city for $16 million shortly before the civil trial. The City Council approved that settlement in September.

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