October 17, 2019

Police Board Issues Its Decision of the Disciplinary Case Relating to the Fatal Shooting of Bettie Jones by Police Officer Robert Rialmo

The Chicago Police Board at its October 17 public meeting announced and issued its decision of the disciplinary case brought against Police Officer Robert Rialmo. The Board found Officer Rialmo guilty of violating the Police Department’s General Orders on the use of deadly force when he fired his weapon in the direction of Bettie Jones, hitting her and causing her death. In a unanimous decision, the Board ordered Officer Rialmo discharged from his position as a police officer.

Below are excerpts from the Board’s written decision, which was issued at the meeting:

“In the early morning of December 26, 2015, Officer Robert Rialmo shot and killed Bettie Jones at her home at 4710 West Erie Street in Chicago.  Officer Rialmo did not intend to kill Ms. Jones, and Ms. Jones did nothing to warrant her fate.  Instead, Ms. Jones was shot with a bullet intended for Ms. Jones’s upstairs neighbor, Quintonio LeGrier, who had threatened Officer Rialmo with a baseball bat.  Ms. Jones was present at the scene—and in close proximity to Mr. LeGrier as he was shot—only because she had assisted officers as they responded to a domestic disturbance occurring in the upstairs apartment in the two-flat building in which she lived.

“This tragic case raises difficult but important questions about when a police officer may use deadly force, specifically in this instance in which he knew or reasonably should have known that an innocent bystander was in his line of fire.  As explained in more detail below, the Police Board finds that the Chicago Police Department’s General Orders require an officer to consider the presence of an innocent bystander when deciding whether to use deadly force.  This finding recognizes that an officer has a duty first and foremost to protect the public—and that the most critical mission of the Chicago Police Department is to prevent the loss of innocent human life.  With those basic principles in mind, and upon examination of the facts of this case, the Board finds that when Officer Rialmo fired his gun in the direction of Bettie Jones, he had the ability to safely reposition himself even farther than he already had from Mr. LeGrier.  Had Officer Rialmo done so, he could have neutralized the threat posed by Quintonio LeGrier, and Bettie Jones would be alive today.  Officer Rialmo had an obligation to reexamine his options in light of the presence of Ms. Jones and take all reasonable precautions to avoid shooting her—as all officers have an obligation to act in a manner to protect innocent persons around them.

“To be perfectly clear, the Board does not believe Officer Rialmo intended to harm Bettie Jones, but his use of deadly force was objectively unreasonable under the totality of the circumstances he faced, inconsistent with his training, and violated the Department’s General Orders.  Given the loss of Ms. Jones’s life that ensued, the Board finds that Officer Rialmo must be discharged from the Chicago Police Department.” [Pages 2-3.]

In addressing the question of the June 2018 verdict in the civil case brought by the Estate of Quintonio LeGrier, the Board found:

“It is true that a civil jury determined that Officer Rialmo reasonably believed it was necessary to use deadly force against LeGrier to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or his partner.  The jury’s finding, however, does not end the Board’s analysis here, as the jury was asked a question that is distinctly different than that asked of this Board.  Specifically, the jury in the LeGrier civil case was asked only whether the use of force was reasonable as to LeGrier (not Bettie Jones) and the jury was not asked to determine whether the force was necessary based on the totality of the circumstances.” [Page 22.]

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