Barely a month removed from Jason Van Dyke’s conviction for his overzealous, implicit bias-fueled police execution of teenager Laquan McDonald in Chicago, history seemed to be repeating itself about 20 miles south in the town of Robbins. That was where, just this past weekend, a police officer, on sight, shot and killed a Black security guard who identified himself as such and was wearing clothing that said the same.
The police officer also identified himself, but only a split second before he started shooting, an eyewitness near the nightclub where Jemel Roberson was working Sunday night told the Chicago Tribune in a report published Friday morning.
He “didn’t give the guy any chance to identify himself or anything,” Jeff Carey said. “He just started shooting. I think it was more out of fear. You know what I’m saying? Just fear.”
At the time of the shooting, Roberson was subduing a man who had opened fire in the nightclub. That’s when the Midlothian Police Officer, responding to a report about gunfire, shot and killed the Roberson, who was armed and licensed to carry a gun.
One of Roberson’s colleagues who was also working security at the club that night told the Chicago Tribune that another responding officer said the shooting never should have happened.
“One cop … he said, ‘Man, you didn’t have to do that, you didn’t have to do that. We know these guys. We told you they’re security,’’’ said Dorian Myrickes, who was also injured in the shooting.
There was also potentially a racial angle to the fatal encounter, Lee Merritt, the attorney representing Robertson’s family, said on Twitter.
“Investigators claim ‘all the shooter saw was black.’ That is exactly the problem. It seems all cops ever see is black,”Merritt tweeted.
Like with the McDonald shooting, there have been suggestions of police trying to cover-up to protect one of its own. The Illinois State Police, which was conducting the initial investigation into the killing, released findings on Tuesday that contradicted reported witness statements.
Community leaders and activists were gathering at the Midlothian Police department Friday morning to demand answers, including the name and other information about the officer who fired the fatal shots even after other witnesses yelled that Roberson was a security guard protecting others from a gunman.
Roberson, who was being hailed as a hero, was also a father. He was working extra security guard shifts in order to buy holiday gifts for his nine-month-old son and his son’s mother, according to CNN.
“Jemel loved his baby so much,” Avontea Boose told ABC Chicago. “And it’s just crazy. Police officers just took him away.”