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Claiming Emotional Trauma, Chicago Officer Countersues Victim's Estate

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Claiming Emotional Trauma, Chicago Officer Countersues Victim's Estate

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Claiming Emotional Trauma, Chicago Officer Countersues Victim's Estate

Claiming Emotional Trauma, Chicago Officer Countersues Victim's Estate

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The white Chicago police officer who shot and killed a black college student wielding a bat says the incident in which he also accidentally shot and killed a neighbor has caused him emotional trauma.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

A Chicago police officer who shot and killed a 19-year-old college student contends that he was a victim too. The officer is claiming extreme emotional trauma and says he feared for his life when he fired his weapon the day after Christmas. He's now countersuing the family of the young man he shot and killed. From Chicago, here's NPR's David Schaper.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: Quintonio LeGrier was a student at Northern Illinois University, home on winter break, and had recently been struggling with mental health problems. He was behaving erratically when at 4:18 a.m., December 26, he called 911 from his father's two flat on Chicago's West Side.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Chicago emergency bureau.

QUINTONIO LEGRIER: Yeah, I need an officer at [bleep] street.

SCHAPER: The dispatcher says she needs Quintonio's full name and more information about what's going on. And that frustrates him.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

Q. LEGRIER: There's an emergency.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: OK, if you can't answer the questions, I'm going to hang up.

Q. LEGRIER: I need the police.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Terminating the call.

SCHAPER: Moments later, the teen's father, Antonio LeGrier, calls, saying his son is pounding on the door of his bedroom.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Is he carrying any weapons that you're aware of?

ANTONIO LEGRIER: He's got a baseball bat in his hand right now.

SCHAPER: When Officer Robert Rialmo arrives on the scene, his attorney, Joel Brodsky, contends Quintonio LeGrier comes barging out of the second-floor apartment, swinging the baseball bat.

JOEL BRODSKY: The first swing was so close to the officer's head that he could feel the breeze as the bat passed in front of his face.

SCHAPER: Brodsky claims LeGrier then swung a second time.

BRODSKY: If it would have made contact with his head, it would have busted it open like a cantaloupe. It clearly would have killed him.

SCHAPER: Brodsky says Officer Rialmo then backed onto the porch and was just a few feet away when LeGrier started to swing a third time. That's when Rialmo unholstered his weapon and fired eight shots. Six of them hit the 19-year-old, killing him. One bullet passed through, striking and killing 55-year-old neighbor Bettie Jones, a mother of five who was standing in the foyer.

BRODSKY: I can't even begin to describe to you how upset and broken up Officer Rialmo is about Bettie Jones' death. I mean, he is just tremendously, you know, upset that LeGrier forced him to take an action that caused this innocent woman's death.

BILL FOUTRIS: It's nonsense.

SCHAPER: Bill Foutris is the attorney representing the father, Antonio LeGrier. In his wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Chicago and Officer Rialmo, Foutris says the teenager is at least 15 to 20 feet away when the officer opens fire.

FOUTRIS: He heard his son being killed. And he was there when his son was bleeding to death. And now he has this officer turn around and sue the estate and blame him.

SCHAPER: Foutris calls it a new low.

FOUTRIS: You shoot and kill someone and then you sue them. That's unconscionable.

SCHAPER: Legal experts say they cannot remember any previous case in which a police officer has countersued the estate of someone they've shot. Locke Bowman is with the MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University.

LOCKE BOWMAN: It seems really tone deaf. It seems bizarre as a jury argument. I have to assume, therefore, that this is a strong-arm tactic.

SCHAPER: Bowman says such an aggressive legal tactic could backfire not only in the courtroom but in the court of public opinion. A spokesman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel says the city does not support the counterclaim and is not involved in any way. David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago.

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