Jury Awards Dead Criminal's Family $1M, Then Judge Takes It Away
Chicago, IL – A Cook County Circuit Court judge reversed a jury’s decision to award over $1 million dollars to the family of a bat-wielding man who was fatally shot by a Chicago police officer in 2015.
On Wednesday, the jury determined Chicago Police Officer Robert Rialmo, who had already been cleared of wrongdoing by both his department and the Cook County Attorney’s Office, was not justified in shooting LeGrier, and awarded his parents $1.08 million in damages, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Judge Rena Marie Van Tine announced the verdict, then explained that jurors had also signed off on a special interrogatory that found Officer Rialmo had acted under the belief that LeGrier intended to kill or severely injure him or his partner.
Van Tine determined that the jury’s response to the special interrogatory overrode the balance of the verdict. Consequently, LeGrier’s family will not receive a financial award.
Officer Rialmo had also filed a lawsuit against LeGrier’s estate for infliction of emotional distress, the Star-Telegram reported.
The jury ruled in his favor on Wednesday but did not award him any money.
The shooting occurred at approximately 4:30 a.m. on Dec. 26, 2015, when Officer Rialmo and his partner responded to reports of a disturbance at an apartment where LeGrier was staying, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Bettie Jones, 55, who lived in a downstairs apartment, opened the door for officers and directed them to an upper-floor apartment.
But as officers began climbing the stairs, LeGrier charged down at them with a baseball bat raised over his head, State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office revealed, according to the Chicago Tribune.
As the officers quickly backed down the stairs and onto the front landing, Officer Rialmo fired at LeGrier, who had continued his pursuit of the officers.
LeGrier was hit by six of the eight bullets fired by Officer Rialmo.
Jones, who was standing behind LeGrier when the altercation took place, was shot once in the chest.
Jones and LeGrier both died from their gunshot wounds.
The City of Chicago settled with Jones’ family in the amount of $16 million, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Although the Cook County Attorney’s Office and the Chicago Police Department determined that Officer Rialmo was justified in shooting LeGrier when he charged at police with a bat raised above his head, the Chicago Civilian Office of Police Accountability disagreed, WGN reported.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson rejected the civil review board’s recommendation to fire the officer in March, according to WGN.
“An investigation must address the question of whether the officer, while making split-second decision in tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving circumstances, acted as another reasonable department member on the scene would have done,” Superintendent Johnson said at the time.
After Van Tine’s ruling, Officer Rialmo issued a statement through his attorney.
"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," he said in the statement which was released on his attorney’s Facebook page.
The LeGrier family’s attorney, Basileios Foutris, said the city won the civil lawsuit on a “legal technicality,” and noted that he would be “exploring all our other options going forward,” the Chicago Tribune reported.