Shortly after the shooting, Antonio LeGrier filed a suit against the city for wrongful death, wrongful arrest, excessive use of force, and not providing prompt medical attention to his son. It’s unclear how much LeGrier is seeking in damages; the lawsuit specifies only more than $50,000. On Friday, Rialmo countersued, asking for more than $10 million from LeGrier’s estate for assault and infliction of emotional distress.
“LeGrier knew his actions toward Officer Rialmo were extreme and outrageous, and that his conduct was atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community,” the complaint states. It goes on to say that by “forc[ing] Officer Rialmo to end LeGrier’s life” and Jones’s innocent life as well, caused “Rialmo to suffer extreme emotional trauma.”
Counterclaims to civil lawsuits are not themselves rare; in some states, they’re even compulsory. “Most astute lawyers would encourage a client to file a counterclaim” in a civil suit, said Michael Kaufman, associate dean for academic affairs at Loyola University Chicago School of Law. But a police officer suing someone he’s killed does seem to be unusual, as does the language used in the suit, as his lawyer acknowledged to The New York Times.
“There is no question that he suffered very extreme emotional trauma and stress as a result of what Quintonio LeGrier did,” said Joel Brodsky. “When I say he feels extremely horrible about her death, that’s an understatement. But the bottom line is that it was Quintonio LeGrier who forced him to shoot.”
The LeGrier family’s lawyer blasted the countersuit, calling it “nonsense,” “pure fantasy,” and “a new low for the Chicago Police Department.”
The countersuit does provide the most detailed explanation of the December 26 shooting yet made public. Official investigations are ongoing, although the victims’ families have said they have little confidence in the process—not surprising, given Chicago and Cook County authorities’ handling of the McDonald case, among others.
The suit alleges that shortly after the officer arrived on the scene, LeGrier “took a full swing at Officer Rialmo’s head, missing it by inches, but getting close enough for Officer Rialmo to feel the movement of air as the bat passed in front of his face.” It alleges that Rialmo retreated down steps from the second-floor porch, instructing LeGrier to drop the bat. At the bottom of the steps, “Officer Rialmo reasonably believed that if he did not use deadly force against LeGrier, that LeGrier would kill him,” and so he fired eight shots, striking both LeGrier and Jones, whom Rialmo says he did not see.
Rialmo is white; LeGrier and Jones were both black. Rialmo has been placed on desk duty.
It’s tough to compare the legal prospects for Rialmo’s suit to those of the LeGrier family’s original claim. Kaufman said the language in Rialmo’s suit—“atrocious,” “utterly intolerable in a civilized community”—seemed uncommon, and unusually strident for a suit. They could put off a judge or jury, or create conflict with the plaintiff’s lawyers, he said.