The chief of police in a Chicago suburb has revealed that the officer who shot dead a black security guard outside a bar over the weekend was white, raising questions over whether race was a factor – and prompting a local elected official to call for Cook County prosecutors to investigate the fatal incident.
It also emerged on Tuesday that the victim, 26-year-old Jemel Roberson, was apparently wearing a hat emblazoned with the word ‘SECURITY’ across the front when he was gunned down by an officer from the Midlothian Police Department outside Manny’s Blue Room in Robbins, a predominantly black community just south of Chicago.
At the time, according to witnesses and a lawsuit, Roberson was attempting to detain a suspect in a separate shooting that wounded several other people at the tavern.
Gunned down: Jemel Roberson, 26, pictured left with his young son, Tristan, in an undated photo, was shot dead by a white police officer while working security in a Chicago suburb (pictured in uniform, right)
The shooting happened outside Manny’s Blue Room Bar in Chicago on Sunday
‘Here is a security guard who is subduing a suspect,’ but the officer ‘just sees a black man with a gun and kills him,’ Alderman Keith Price said.
Roberson was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead from multiple gunshot wounds. The Cook County medical examiner’s office ruled his death a homicide.
Price said he learned from witnesses that there are security cameras inside and outside the bar. He urged the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office to launch an investigation.
Harvey, Illinois, Alderman Keith Price has called for Cook County prosecutors to investigate Roberson’s fatal shooting
The Illinois State Police declined to comment on their investigation. The spokeswoman for the sheriff’s department, which is also investigating, said she did not know if there were security cameras at the bar.
Another security guard at the bar said that the white officer jumped onto the bar and waved an assault rifle before running outside and fatally shooting the guard, an attorney said Tuesday.
Gregory E. Kulis, who on Monday filed a civil rights lawsuit against the officer and the community where he works, said the surviving guard told him that the officer pointed a gun at him until he screamed at him that he was a security guard.
‘That’s when he jumped off the bar, waving the gun, and ran outside the door,’ said Kulis, who declined to identify the other security guard. The name of the officer, who is from the community of Midlothian, has not been released either.
What is known about the cop so far is that he has served on the force for seven years and is a member of a SWAT team. He has been placed on administrative leave, reported the
Midlothian Police Chief Daniel Delaney initially said only that the officer shot ‘a subject with a gun.’
On Tuesday, he released a second statement, describing Roberson as ‘a brave man who was doing his best to end an active shooter situation at Manny’s Blue Room.’
A lawyer who filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Roberson’s family said the victim was wearing a hat with ‘security’ printed across the front at the time of his death
The statement from the chief continued: ‘the Midlothian Police Department is completely saddened by this tragic incident and we give our heartfelt condolences to Jemel, his family and his friends. There are no words that can be expressed as to the sorrow his family is dealing with.’
Kulis, the lawyer representing Roberson’s family in their excessive force lawsuit against the officer and the village where he works, would not say if he thinks race played a role in the shooting, but the fact that the Midlothian officer is white and Roberson was black has prompted some – including a prominent local African-American newspaper columnist – to question the officer’s thinking.
‘I believe a police officer showing up at a chaotic scene where a white man has a gun would have at least hollered for him to put the gun down before opening fire,’ Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell wrote after the shooting. ‘But too often, black men are not given the benefit of the doubt.’
Kulis said he is trying to gather information about the white officer.
Cell phone footage of the aftermath shows cops at the scene. Witnesses said they told the officers Roberson was a security guard but that they shot anyway
Footage from surveillance or body cameras could explain whether Roberson was clearly identifiable as a security guard.
Audio could determine what, if anything, was said to the officer before the shooting and whether, as witnesses have told the media, they shouted to the officer before he fired that Roberson was a security guard.
Such footage could also help investigators determine what kind of charges should be filed against the man who is suspected of firing a gun inside the bar. The man was one of four people who suffered non-life threatening gunshot wounds.
In his federal lawsuit, Kulis contends that the officer who shot Roberson violated the man’s 4th Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures.
‘The use of force is considered a seizure, and he needed probable cause to use force and he did not have that,’ he said.
Roberson’s family said he was a talented musician. He played the organ for local churches
Roberson’s friends and family have since paid tribute to him as a devout Christian and a talented musician.