The Chicago police officer accused of killing 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier just after Christmas says he intends to file a lawsuit against the dead teenager’s estate, alleging that LeGrier assaulted the officer and caused him emotional distress.
Officer Robert Rialmo claims he shot LeGrier seven times because the teenager swung a bat at him. Rialmo also accidentally shot a neighbor, Bettie Jones, in the chest and killed her.
Rialmo’s plan to sue was revealed after a hearing for the victims’ wrongful death lawsuit against the city. Bill Foutris, an attorney for the LeGrier family, told CBS Chicago that the countersuit is a desperate attempt to distract from the fact that Rialmo shot LeGrier four times in the back without justification.
The events that led to the shooting are still unclear, but LeGrier called 911 and requested police assistance several times before he was killed. The dispatcher hung up on him and ignored his pleas for help.
Though Rialmo is planning to file a civil lawsuit for his emotional distress, it is not uncommon for police officers to criminally charge victims of brutality with assault, a tactic known as a “cover charge.” New York City prosecutors even charged an unarmed police shooting victim with felony assault, for causing police to accidentally shoot bystanders when they were aiming for him.
LeGrier’s shooting has fed city officials’ anxiety over police accountability after the city released a video of Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting another teenager, Laquan McDonald, 16 times. Since then, the pressure to punish the top decision-makers has grown. Several police officials have resigned or been fired, including Superintendent Garry McCarthy. On Tuesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel released his text messages from the week of LeGrier’s shooting. The conversations are dominated by a prevailing concern of how the media was responding. “Media acting breathlessly?” Emanuel asks the interim superintendent after LeGrier and Jones were shot. “You are positive no public negative reaction?”
The Department of Justice has opened an investigation into the department to determine if there is a pattern of discriminatory and abusive policing. The publicity over McDonald’s shooting also revealed that Chicago police have tried to destroy misconduct records and intentionally tampered with dashcam recordings, presumably to hide evidence of wrongdoing.