When police kill people in America, they generally don't have much to worry about. Sure, video surveillance might capture the incident, but except in the most flagrantly egregious cases, prosecutors are loathe to go after the cops who make their own jobs possible. And even when police do get criminally charged, they very rarely get convicted. Since the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement, though, there's at least been some anecdotal evidence that video footage can be used to make cops answer for their actions.
And then there's Chicago.
The city has been in the national spotlight over its policing practices pretty much forever, going back to the bloody Haymarket Strike in the 1880s. But between people reportedly being detained at secret black sites, an array of deeply disturbing killings, and the reparations the city is giving to black men tortured by cops, it's fair to say the Chicago Police Department is one of the more troubled in the country. In November, local prosecutors took the novel step of actually charging an officer for murder in the death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, which was caught on a video that finally got released after a lengthy delay by local authorities.
Unfortunately for the family of 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier, who was shot and killed while apparently suffering from a nervous breakdown on the day after Christmas, his death was not recorded on camera. And now Chicago Police Officer Robert Rialmo is actually suing LeGrier's estate for the emotional and physical trauma he says he's experienced since slaying the teen and his neighbor, 55-year-old Bettie Jones, on the day after Christmas, as the New York Times reports.
The $10 million suit filed Friday is a counter to a wrongful death claim brought by LeGrier's family against Rialmo, whose actions are still under internal police investigation. The officer's attorney claims LeGrier swung at him with a baseball bat multiple times after charging down the stairs and that the cop did what he had to to protect himself, accidentally killing Jones in the process. (LeGrier's family maintains the teenager was inside the house.)
The city, the CPD, and the local police union aren't involved in this suit, suggesting Rialmo is at it alone. His lawyer, Joel Brodsky, seems pretty confident in the righteousness of the cause, however.
"Why do we have the headline, 'Police officer sues college kid he killed last year,' instead of 'Police officer sues college dropout who tried to kill him with a baseball bat'?" Brodsky asked BuzzFeed News.
Brodsky is something of a character himself. He represented Drew Peterson, the man found guilty in 2012 of murdering his ex-wife in a high-profile trial that earned blanket cable media coverage. He's also been cited repeatedly for his conduct by judges and involved in bizarre disputes with rival attorneys over the years.
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