Chicago police Officer Robert Rialmo returned to the stand Wednesday and for the first time in court discussed the details of his controversial 2015 shooting of the bat-wielding Quintonio LeGrier, 19, and a bystander, Bettie Jones, 55.
For a second day, attorney Basileios Foutris, who represents the LeGrier family, asked Rialmo confrontational questions and repeatedly tried to highlight alleged inconsistencies in his accounts of the shooting.
Rialmo’s lawyer, Joel Brodsky, and the city’s lawyers objected repeatedly and complained that Foutris wasn’t completely recounting Rialmo’s prior statements.
The high-profile trial has focused on how far the teenager stood from Rialmo when the officer opened fire and whether LeGrier swung the bat at the officer as he and his partner responded to a domestic incident early the morning after Christmas Day 2015. The city’s lawyers this month avoided a trial with Jones’ family by reaching a proposed $16 million settlement, but the city made no deal with LeGrier’s family.
Questioning the first day focused in part on Rialmo’s previous comment that his police training was a “joke,” as well as his unusual lawsuit against the city and the LeGrier estate that blamed the teen for the incident and alleged that the city had trained him poorly.
As the officers arrived at the home on the West Side, Jones answered the door and pointed to the upstairs apartment where LeGrier was staying with his father.
Asked Wednesday by Foutris whether Jones then returned to her apartment, Rialmo said, “She didn’t have time to.”
“I heard a rumbling of someone coming down the stairs,” Rialmo said.
The LeGrier family’s attorneys have tried to show through medical and forensic evidence that the officer was a significant distance from LeGrier when he opened fire. The officer has given conflicting statements as to his location when he fired. But on Wednesday he told jurors he was on the walkway between the porch and the sidewalk when he fired and that he backpedaled as he shot. LeGrier and Jones fell in the vestibule.
“Distance is safety, right?” Foutris asked.
Foutris again picked up the 28-inch bat that has become the key prop for lawyers making points for the jury. The lawyer held the bat over his shoulder and then sliced it down toward the floor.
Rialmo said that was indeed how LeGrier swung the bat. The officer said the teen was facing him when he first opened fire but that LeGrier then spun around.
On Tuesday, a pathologist hired by the LeGrier estate testified that LeGrier’s wounds didn’t square with the teen clutching the bat over his head when he was shot. She said also that most of the five bullets that hit him went into his back.
Attorneys for the city and Rialmo have questioned the reliability of the physical evidence and tried to illustrate for jurors how quickly LeGrier might have closed the distance and hit the officers with the bat.
Rialmo told jurors that LeGrier swung the bat while on the porch, but Foutris played a prior recorded statement in which Rialmo said the teen was in the threshold.
As Foutris questioned him about text messages Rialmo received from a friend making plans the night after the shooting, the officer reacted with annoyance.
“Is it strange to you I have friends that want to check on me?” he asked.
For the first time at the trial, Rialmo fielded questions from an attorney seeking to defend the shooting as Brian Gainer, who represents the city, questioned the officer briefly before the trial broke for lunch. The city’s lawyers, however, are tasked with simultaneously defending the city from the LeGrier family’s lawsuit and the officer’s suit against the city.
Responding to Gainer’s questions, Rialmo said LeGrier was advancing before the shooting.
READ: Chicago cop Robert Rialmo takes stand at civil trial over his fatal shooting of 2 »
Gainer also led the officer through personal details, including his graduation from Lane Technical College Prep High School and his service in the Marines.
Rialmo testified that further training would not have caused him to act differently the night of the shooting.
The officer also said that neither a baton nor pepper spray would have been effective against LeGrier.
Rialmo’s certification to use a Taser shock device had lapsed, but Gainer asked questions aimed at sowing doubt as to whether the weapon would have worked.
The shooting has been controversial, in part because it took place just a month after a judge forced Mayor Rahm Emanuel to release footage of a white officer shooting black teen Laquan McDonald 16 times.
The city’s new police disciplinary agency, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, ruled the shooting unjustified and recommended that Rialmo be fired, but police Superintendent Eddie Johnson determined that deadly force was warranted. The Emanuel-appointed Chicago Police Board will decide whether to fire Rialmo.
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.
Trial opens in 2015 police shooting in which bat-wielding teen and bystander were killed »