A new statement from the state agency tasked with investigating a white police officer’s fatal shooting of a black security guard in suburban Chicago suggests the officer could not have known the man wasn’t a threat.
Jemel Roberson, 26, was armed and working security at Manny’s Blue Room in the village of Robbins around 4 a.m. Sunday when a shooting occurred, according to the Cook County Sheriff’s office. Witnesses said Roberson subdued one of the people involved.
In a statement released late Tuesday night, the Illinois State Police said that according to witness statements, an officer from the nearby village of Midlothian gave Roberson “multiple verbal commands to drop the gun and get on the ground before ultimately discharging his weapon and striking the subject.”
The agency said Roberson was in “plain black clothing with no markings readily identifying him as a Security Guard.”
That contradicts what people who said they witnessed the shooting told the media.
Jakia Woods lives in a house adjacent to Manny’s parking lot. She said officers already on the scene had asked Roberson to release the suspect, and Roberson was complying, when another officer came through the bar’s back door.
“Before [Roberson] could get up off of him, the officer comes flying out this door gun up,” Woods said Tuesday afternoon while standing on her porch. “He says, ‘Get on the ground,’ and before he says ‘ground,’ he fires the first shot.”
“Everybody is screaming and hollering,” she said. “Even the officers were screaming and hollering, ‘He’s one of us. He’s one of us. He’s a security guard. He works here.’ ”
Witness Adam Harris told WGN-TV he saw the same thing. “Everybody is screaming out, ‘He’s a security guard,’ ” Harris said.
Reached late Tuesday night, Woods said investigators had not attempted to interview her. The Illinois State Police did not respond to multiple calls for comment late Tuesday.
Four other people were shot and left with non-life-threatening injuries, according to the sheriff’s office.
Attorney Gregory Kulis filed a civil rights lawsuit seeking more than $1 million on behalf of Roberson’s mother, Beatrice Roberson. He said Jemel Roberson was wearing a hat with the word “security” when he was shot.
“He was retained to do a job, and he did his job well,” Kulis said. “He probably saved some people’s lives.”
Kulis described Roberson as a kind young man who his mother said was interested in eventually joining law enforcement. Kulis said he loved music, specifically playing organ.
“In fact, the day of the incident he was supposed to be in church that morning to play the organ.”
By Tuesday afternoon, a small memorial had sprung up for Roberson in Manny’s parking lot. Candles spelled out his first name, and a small, brightly colored electric keyboard lay next to them.
The officer’s name has not been released, but the Midlothian Police Department said Tuesday that he had been placed on leave.
Midlothian Police Chief Daniel Delaney said in a statement posted on Facebook that Jemel Roberson was a “brave man who was doing his best to end an active-shooter situation.”
“The Midlothian Police Department is completely saddened by this tragic incident and we give our heartfelt condolences to Jemel, his family and his friends,” Delaney wrote.