It’s been more than a week since a Midlothian police officer shot and killed Jemel Roberson in the parking lot of the suburban Chicago nightclub where he worked as a security guard. Despite calls from Roberson’s family and Black leaders for justice, officials have refused to identify the officer.
Eventually, the names of officers in these cases come out—whether through official channels or via social media. Yet officials continue to go through this routine.
A NewsOne call on Monday to the Midlothian Police Department resulted in a runaround about information on a possible timeline (and departmental procedures) for identifying the officer’s name. And the city’s attorney did not immediately return a call requesting that same information.
We’ve seen this before. Social media sleuths revealed Amber Guyger’s name—the Dallas officer who killed Botham Jean in his own apartment in September. And in Sacramento, civil rights attorney John Burris announced the names of the two officers who killed Stephon Clark in March.
Attorney Lee Merritt, who’s representing the mother of Roberson’s child, believes he knows why the police have concealed the officer’s name. Officials are giving the officer time to wipe his social media presence clear of personal damaging information and “to hide evidence,” the civil rights lawyer told USA Today.
“They refused to release Amber Guyger’s name, which gave her a chance to scrub the internet and hide evidence,” he added. “It’s exactly what’s going on here.”
Merritt vowed to release the name of the officer if the Midlothian police don’t do it.
Roberson, 26, was doing his job when a police officer mistakenly killed him in the early morning hours on Nov. 11.
The armed security guard had apprehended a suspect whom investigators said fired a weapon inside the bar. A white Midlothian police officer, responding to a report about gunfire, shot and killed Roberson.
The Illinois State Police, which conducted the initial investigation, released findings on Nov. 13 that contradict reported witness statements. It claimed Roberson wore plain black clothing without any markings to indicate that he was a security guard.
Contrary to the police version, witnesses and Roberson’s attorneys said that Roberson was wearing a hat and shirt with the word “security” emblazoned on them when the officer killed him.
In the report, officials said the officer issued multiple warnings for Roberson to drop his weapon that was pointed at the suspect. However, the report omitted that witnesses yelled to the police officer that Roberson was a security guard apprehending a shooter.
“He had somebody on the ground with his knee in his back, with his gun in his back like, ‘Don’t move,’” witness Adam Harris told WGN-TV. “Everybody was screaming out, ‘Security!’ He was a security guard. And they still did their job, and saw a Black man with a gun, and basically killed him.”
Roberson was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead from multiple gunshot wounds.
He was a church musician and the father of a 9-month old son named Tristan. The child’s mother is currently pregnant with their second child, according to a statement from Merritt Law Office.