Chicago Police Officer Kills Teen and Grandmother
The family of a dead Chicago teen are suing the Chicago Police Department for wrongful death and the commission of a hate crime, according to Reuters. The victim, Quintonio LeGrier, died on December 26, 2015, after Chicago Police Officer Robert Rialmo shot him. Officer Rialmo also accidentally killed 55-year-old Bettie Jones during the confrontation. LeGrier was 19 years old.
Officer Rialmo Text Conversations Included Racial Language
The family argues that Officer Rialmo had a racial motive in killing LeGrier. Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones were both African American. The lawsuit alleges that before the shooting, Officer Rialmo exchanged texts with other officers that included racist language. The family is seeking damages under Illinois’ hate crime act, The Chicago Tribune reports. Rialmo’s lawyer argues that other officers used racist terms in the text messages, but that Rialmo did not. Rialmo also argues that LeGrier attacked him with a baseball bat, and that the use of lethal force was necessary under the circumstances. The lawyer characterized the racial terms in the text messages as “hip-hop language.” In addition, Rialmo is counter-suing the city for failing to properly train him on how to de-escalate violent confrontations with mentally ill persons. According to Rialmo, the shooting occurred after he responded to a call about domestic violence. Jones answered the door and pointed Rialmo toward an apartment. Then, LeGrier appeared in the doorway wielding a baseball bat. Rialmo fired his gun at LeGrier three or four times, killing LeGrier. He then discovered that Jones had received fatal wounds as well.
Illinois Law Punishes Hate-motivated Crime
Although numerous wrongful death lawsuits are ongoing in relation to police shootings across the country, the inclusion of a hate crime claim is unusual. The Illinois Criminal Code defines a hate crime as an assault, battery or criminal trespass, property damage, or harassment committed because of a person’s race, color, religion, religion, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, or physical or mental disability. These are criminal laws. But to sue someone, there must be a civil law basis. The Illinois Code also provides that anyone suffering from a hate crime may bring a lawsuit against the person responsible if there has been physical damage to someone’s health or property. It provides that the victim can receive actual damages (money to compensate them for their injuries) as well as punitive damages (additional awards designed to discourage other potential offenders in the future).
LeGrier Shooting May Be a Hate Crime
In a lawsuit like the one against Officer Rialmo and the Chicago Police Department, it’s possible that the victim’s family could convince the court that the officer committed a hate crime. Because Officer Rialmo aimed a gun at LeGrier, the victims may argue that the officer committed an assault (threatening action) and battery (contact that causes an injury) against LeGrier. The more difficult questions is whether the officer had a racial motive in shooting LeGrier. This may depend on whether the jury believes that Rialmo had racist views based on evidence like his text message conversations with other officers. The court would also need to decide whether any racist views Rialmo held led to his decision to shoot LeGrier. Rialmo will likely argue that his real motive for shooting LeGrier was not the color of LeGrier’s skin, but the perceived threat of LeGrier hitting Rialmo with a baseball bat. If the court concludes that racism motivated LeGrier’s death, then the surviving family may receive both money to compensate them for the value of LeGrier’s life plus additional damages to discourage other possible offenders.
Contact a Chicago Civil Rights Lawyer
If you have been the victim of police misconduct, you will need expert help. Get in contact with an experienced civil rights lawyer at Barney Hourihane today to get the compensation you deserve.
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