CHICAGO (AP) — A Chicago police officer who fatally shot a bat-wielding college student and the student's neighbor gave two versions of what happened — first telling detectives that the student held the baseball bat over his head then telling them two days later that the young man swung the bat at him.
The police reports on the shooting death of 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier and the accidental shooting death of 55-year-old Bettie Jones by Officer Robert Rialmo raise new questions about what happened Dec. 26, and come at a time when the department and the veracity of accounts given by officers present at the scenes of shooting are under intense scrutiny.
The Independent Police Review Authority is already investigating whether officers were trying to cover up for Officer Jason Van Dyke when they gave accounts of his 2014 shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald that appear to be at odds with what unfolds on dashcam video of the killing. Van Dyke has been charged with first-degree murder.
Rialmo has not been charged in the LeGrier shooting. The attorney representing the teen's father in a wrongful death lawsuit against Rialmo and the city said it is clear the officer is trying to justify the shooting.
"As time goes on, he's covering himself more and more," said Foutris.
But Rialmo's attorney, Joel Brodsky, said the second report is nothing more than a more detailed account of what happened and not an attempt by the officer to change his story.
"They could both be fully accurate," said Brodsky, who said Rialmo believes he did mention that LeGrier swung his bat in the first interview and that the detective may have not written it down.
On the day of the shooting, Rialmo and his partner Anthony LaPalermo responded to a 911 call about a disturbance at the apartment building where LeGrier was staying with his father. When they arrived, Jones, the downstairs neighbor, let them in and motioned that the disturbance was upstairs.
In his initial report, given less than two hours after the shooting, Rialmo said when he started up the stairs, LeGrier emerged from the doorway, holding a bat in both hands over his head.
Rialmo said he was in fear for his life, and fired his weapon. LeGrier was shot six times and Jones was shot once, according to the County Medical Examiner's office.
Two days later, Rialmo was interviewed again. In that interview he told detectives that he heard "someone charging down the stairs from the second floor" and that LeGrier stepped out and, according to the police report, "swung the baseball bat at P.O. Rialmo with an overhand downward swing and then a half backwards swing."
LaPalermo said he was "looking down as he backed down the stairs" and did not see LeGrier swing the bat.
Rialmo has been assigned to administrative duty and has taken the unusual step of suing LeGrier's estate, claiming that the shooting was the result of LeGrier's actions and that the shooting left him traumatized.
This story has been corrected to show that the neighbor's name was Bettie Jones, not Betty Jones.