There is a long-held perception that Black people in this country are a threat and present an imminent danger to society. Therefore, expecting fair treatment under the law is unrealistic for Black folk. And this was pretty much all the justification that the Cook County District Attorney's Office needed to let the murderer of 19-year old Quintonio LeGrier and his 55-year old neighbor Bettie Jones go free. They believe that Chicago Police Officer Robert Rialmo's assertion that the mentally ill teen was a threat to his life.
Cook County claimed that there was insufficient evidence to prove that Rialmo was not acting in self-defense on December 26, 2015. However, shell casings found on the sidewalk and eyewitness testimony indicated that he and his partner were anywhere from 14-20 feet away from the college sophomore when he started firing at him. Where was the threat?
According to a recent study cited by Democracy Now! and co-authored by John Snook, executive director of the Treatment Advocacy Center, people with mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter. In his statement, Rialmo did acknowledge that LeGrier was having a mental health crisis when he fired off eight rounds at him.
There is a protocol that police officers are supposed to follow when dealing with the mentally ill. According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, Rialmo claims he wasn't adequately trained in that area and sued the city of Chicago. He takes no real responsibility for his choices as evidenced by his statements reported by The Root. In fact, Rialmo believes he was right:
"I have always known in my heart that I did not do anything wrong," Rialmo was quoted as saying in the statement. "I wish that Mr. LeGrier would have been able to get help and treatment for his mental illness, and that the situation did not escalate to the point where I had no choice but to use deadly force."
He continued, "Being right does not make it any less of a tragedy that two people are dead and I was the cause of their deaths. I will have to live with that for the rest of my life." Well, if LeGrier brought this on himself, then shouldn't the loss of two lives be payment enough?Apparently not. Rialmo is suing LeGrier's estate for $10 million citing emotional distress. That's his perception, people. Let's move on...
Loretta Lynch's Department of Justice findings in the LeGrier-Jones case don't support Rialmo's position. The case "laid bare failures in CPD’s crisis response systems" citing that 911 dispatchers didn’t recognize that LeGrier might be mentally ill and hung up on him twice. It also referenced the fact that Rialmo and his partner failed to use crisis-intervention techniques. "The officers made tactical errors that resulted in the shooting death of a bystander who had simply opened her door," the report stated.
Cook County argues that the baseball bat that LeGrier was holding at the time of the shooting could be considered a deadly weapon—even to two armed members of Chicago's finest. And under Illinois law, if one is acting in self-defense, then he cannot be held criminally liable for shooting an innocent bystander.
So, there you have it. Once again law enforcement uses excessive force, lies about the facts of the case, blames everybody else for what happened, and then they walk. If you want to believe that the law is applied equally to all, go ahead. If you want to believe that we live in a post-racial society, feel free. If you entrust your fate and the future of your children to a broken criminal justice system, help yourself. Please.