Crusader Staff Report
Rev. Al Sharpton visited Chicago on June 12, giving a boost to the city’s Black clergy who are renewing calls to fire police officer Robert Rialmo as his trial is set to begin this week.
Rialmo faces termination after killing 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier and 55-year-old Bettie Jones in 2016. His trial will take place at the Daley Center. The families of the victims have waited years to see Rialmo brought to justice.
“The man, Officer Robert Rialmo, who has now been involved with two police shootings, is still on the force and still being paid by taxpayers,” said Sharpton, who is founder and CEO of the National Action Network in New York. “This is a matter of justice. This is a matter of the community being able to hold this officer accountable. It will not be tolerated.”
Sharpton spoke at new Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church on the West Side, where he was joined by pastors Ira Acree, Marshall Hatch and Cy Fields. Called the “Justice Jubilee’ Conference,” the event called attention to police accountability and social activism.
Mount Pilgrim was the same church where Jones’ funeral was held in 2017 and where her daughters led a packed, emotional service that oftentimes seemed like a rally against police brutality.
At Tuesday’s conference, Jones was honored posthumously with a plaque given to her relatives. After several speeches and a powerful musical tribute by the church’s choir, Sharpton gave a 30-minute speech that reminded some 75 people to remember their history and sacrifices of their grandparents who fought to push forward the Civil Rights Movement.
The calls for action come as Mayor Rahm Emanuel stands on a tightrope as activists continue to pressure him to implement police reforms in the Chicago Police Department. With the mayoral election less than a year away, Emanuel’s campaign remains in damage control.
Last weekend, the city’s lawyers reached a $16 million settlement with Jones’ family.
Bettie Jones was an innocent bystander who was killed December 26, 2016 by Rialmo before he fatally shot LeGrier in the 4700 block of West Erie Street where LeGrier was staying with his father.
In a statement, Rialmo’s attorney Joel Brodsky said, “Officer Rialmo has no problem with the city of Chicago paying compensation to the family of Bettie Jones, even though there is a question of legal liability because she was assisting the police when she was killed.”
Lawyers for the city wanted to try the case in two separate trials, but a Cook County judge denied the city’s request, triggering a last-minute settlement deal with Jones’ family, who will receive $16 million in a proposed settlement that must be approved by the City Council for the deal to be final. The settlement is one of the highest in the city’s history for a police shooting.
The settlement brings some closure to Jones’ family, but the pain remains for the relatives of LeGrier, who have waited two years for justice.
One day after Christmas in 2016, officers received a 9-1-1 call from the city’s West Side from LeGrier’s father. Initial reports indicate Rialmo said that LeGrier, who had a mental condition, was wielding a bat. After Jones opened the door to the apartment building for Rialmo, she was fatally shot in the chest as Rialmo fired eight shots at LeGrier. Six shots struck and killed LeGrier.
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) said the shooting was unjustified and recommended that Rialmo be terminated. But Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson disagreed saying the Rialmo’s life was threatened. Brodsky, Rialmo’s attorney, said his client was justified in shooting in self-defense.
In April, COPA stood by its ruling, saying Johnson’s reasons for keeping Rialmo were not enough to overturn COPA’s decision to fire him. Rialmo remains on desk duty for the police department.
Rialmo is also being investigated for allegedly punching two men in the face at a bar last December during a fight that was caught on video. He was charged with misdemeanor battery. Brodsky argues that Rialmo was defending himself.
The shooting has become the second highest-profile case occurring just one month after the forced-release of a dashcam video that shows Officer Jason Van Dyke fatally shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times.