A Chicago police officer took the witness stand Monday and corroborated key parts of his partner’s account of a controversial 2015 shooting that killed a bat-wielding 19-year-old and a bystander.
Officer Anthony LaPalermo testified that Quintonio LeGrier rushed at the officers with an aluminum baseball bat as they responded to a domestic incident on the West Side early the morning after Christmas 2015. His partner, Officer Robert Rialmo, shot LeGrier and also struck 55-year-old bystander Bettie Jones, who lived downstairs from LeGrier’s father.
LaPalermo’s testimony came as the trial over lawsuits stemming from the shooting kicked off its second week at the Daley Center courthouse. The city reached a tentative $16 million settlement with the Jones family before trial but made no such agreement with the LeGrier family.
The LeGrier family finished calling witnesses Monday, and the city’s lawyers started calling their witnesses.
LaPalermo testified that he pulled his gun and considered shooting, but Rialmo was between the officer and LeGrier.
Asked about the moments before the shooting, LaPalermo said, “I thought my head was getting split open.”
LaPalermo, however, told jurors that he didn’t see crucial elements of the incident, in part because he jumped backward off the home’s porch and was looking down during the shooting.
Questions from attorneys also highlighted differences between the two officers’ accounts. LaPalermo said he did not see LeGrier swing the bat. The officer also said he did not hear Rialmo tell LeGrier to drop the bat, as Rialmo said he did.
Earlier in the day, LeGrier’s mother, Janet Cooksey, briefly took the stand. Asked what she misses about him, she said “everything.”
“I miss hugging him. I miss him telling me that he loved me,” she said.
The ongoing trial has been complicated by the fact that Rialmo hired his own lawyer, Joel Brodsky, who made the unusual move of suing both the LeGrier estate and the city. His litigation alleges LeGrier was to blame for the shooting and the city failed to properly train and equip Rialmo.
On Monday, Brodsky said he had withdrawn the part of his litigation that targeted the city, so it will not be decided by the jury, though he did not withdraw his claim against the LeGrier estate. Brodsky said he believed that presenting evidence that Rialmo was poorly trained might have worked in favor of the plaintiffs, who are trying to prove the shooting was unwarranted. Brodsky said he hopes to resolve his claim against the city “in a different form.”
The case has been politically heated since it took place just a month after Mayor Rahm Emanuel was forced by a judge to release video of an officer shooting black teen Laquan McDonald 16 times.
Rialmo, who is on paid desk duty, also remains under investigation for a December 2017 bar fight in which he punched two men in the face in an altercation caught on security video. Brodsky has said Rialmo was defending himself.
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