Clergy call for officer's firing

West Side leaders want officer who killed Jones, LeGrier in 2015, gone

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By Michael Romain

Editor

Religious leaders from across Chicago gathered outside of the Chicago Police Department's South Side headquarters on June 10 to call for the termination of Officer Robert Rialmo — the Chicago cop who fatally shot Bettie Jones, 55, and Quintonio LeGrier, 19, inside a West Side apartment building in December 2015. 

Although the Civilian Office of Police Accountability — the city agency that deals with disciplining police officers — recommended that Rialmo be fired after the body reviewed the case, Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson has said that Rialmo's actions were within the department's policies and has refused to terminate him. 

"Not firing [Rialmo] would be sending a dual message to all police officers that black lives don't matter," stated Rev. Ira Acree — the pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church in Austin and co-chairman of The Leaders Network, the faith-based social justice organization that hosted Monday's press conference — in a prepared statement.

Acree said that civil rights leader Al Sharpton was scheduled to visit Chicago on June 12 to weigh in on Rialmo's firing. 

Rev. Richard Kohng, a pastor on the Near West Side, added that the "whole situation is another tragic reminder of why we need to both increase accountability and invest in restorative justice practices that involve our communities."

Monday's press conference comes after the city tentatively settled a lawsuit with the Jones family on June 9. According to a June 11 Chicago Tribune report, attorneys with the city reached a proposed $16 million settlement with the Jones family, "among the largest ever for a shooting by Chicago police." The settlement still needs to be approved by the City Council. 

A separate lawsuit filed by the family of LeGrier is still pending, with jury selection scheduled to take place on June 11.

The 2015 shooting of LeGrier and Jones was among the most high profile police-involved shootings to take place after the court-ordered release of dashcam video footage showing Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old African-American, in 2014. The video was released in November 2015.

The shooting of Jones and LeGrier happened after police responded to a domestic disturbance call at the apartment unit above hers in the 4700 block of West Erie Street, where LeGrier was staying with his father while home from Northern Illinois University. 

At the request of LeGrier's father, Jones had gone to the apartment's entryway to answer the door for police officers who had responded to the father's 911 call. 

The teenaged LeGrier — a ward of the state who his biological mother said had mental or emotional issues — had reportedly been wielding a bat and threatening his father. Seconds after opening the door, Jones was shot once in the chest. Seconds later, the younger LeGrier was shot six times, according to police and Cook County State's Attorney records.

Local and national leaders lambasted the police department's handling of the West Side shooting. 

"In an occupied zone of terror, there's no safe place; not even in the home," said Rev. Jesse Jackson at Jones's funeral.

"When police shoot [they try to cover up their tracks]," he said. "At least in [Jones's] instance, they said it was an accident — as if killing LeGrier, shooting him seven times, was on purpose. Both of them should be alive today."

"It is not an accident, it is a pattern," said Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) at Jones's funeral. "It is unfortunate that we, in a civilized society, don't have the same protection that folks of other hues have. It is unbelievable in a civilized society that a woman, awoken out of her slumber to help, finds herself laid out here today."

Rev. Marshall Hatch, the pastor of New Mt. Pilgrim who delivered eulogies for both Jones and LeGrier, described how officers handled the Dec. 26 call in terms most reserve for militarized areas like Iraq and Gaza.

"There is nothing that she did that she should have done differently," Hatch said at Jones's funeral. "Her sacrifice demonstrates dysfunction between this police department and the community they claim to police. There is no way she could've expected aggression from sworn officers of the peace; no way she could've anticipated she would be someone's collateral casualty in an aggressive police raid on her residence." 

According to the Chicago Tribune, Rialmo has sued the city, "alleging in part that he was inadequately trained." The office is also suing the LeGrier estate, "blaming the teen for the shooting and contending it emotionally traumatized the officer." 

CONTACT: michael@austinweeklynews.com   

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