A Chicago City Council committee recently approved a $16 million payment for the family of a woman who was accidentally shot dead by police.
The New York Times reports that city corporation counsel Edward Siskel told members of the financial board that a payment to Bettie Jones’ family was the most sensible outcome. Taking the case to trial would likely have led to greater expense, since Siskel expected jurors to have ‘profound sympathy’ for Jones’ relatives.
Jones was shot dead in December 2015. The 55-year old woman was standing near a young man when Officer Robert Rialmo opened fire on the pair, killing both.
Rialmo and his partner had responded to an early-morning call about an ongoing disturbance.
Not long after they arrived, Jones pointed officers toward the apartment of 19-year old Quintonio LeGrier.
LeGrier, 19, had a history of severe mental health problems. He’d behaved ‘erratically’ while attending Northern Illinois University, causing altercations with classmates and attracting police attention. Following his academic difficulties, LeGrier was living back at home with his parents.
Responding to the arrival of officers, LeGrier, wielding a baseball bat, began marching down the stairs behind Jones.
Officer Rialmo, purportedly afraid for his life, began firing up the staircase, striking LeGrier and bystander Bettie Jones. Both were killed, and both families later filed lawsuits against Rialmo and the City of Chicago.
A tentative settlement was approved over the summer, with Monday’s decision bringing the case closer to its conclusion.
The settlement is among the largest ever paid out for a single shooting in the city’s history. And the case is, in a great many ways, different from the many others Chicago’s settled over the course of the past two decades.
The Chicago Tribune writes that the ‘circumstances—a churchgoing grandmother killed by a bullet intended for another—have little comparison in city history.’
In August, Jones family attorney Larry Rogers, Jr. stressed that, while “no amount of money can ever compensate” for Bettie’s death, $16 million is “fair when compared” to other police shootings.
Another hurry had awarded just over $1 million to LeGrier’s family in a wrongful death lawsuit. However, a judge reversed the ruling, saying that Rialmo’s fear was prompted by the teen’s own actions.
Consequences for Rialmo have so far been scarce; an investigation showed that the officer had ‘feared for his life’ while firing up the stairs toward LeGrier, making him inculpable in the deaths of both individuals.
Rialmo later attempted to sue the city, claiming to have been improperly trained and emotionally scarred from the shooting.