CHICAGO — Chicago religious leaders are calling for the white Midlothian police officer who shot and killed a black security guard to be fired and charged.
Police were responding to a gunfight early Sunday at Manny’s Blue Room in Robbins that injured four people when the officer fatally shot Jemel Roberson, who had been subduing a suspect in the initial shooting. Illinois state police say the officer, who is on paid leave and remains unidentified, yelled at the 26-year-old Roberson to drop his gun before opening fire, but their account differs from that of witnesses.
Another security guard said Wednesday that he never heard the officer order the other man to drop his gun. Dorian Myrickes, who was shot in the shoulder in the initial gunfight, told The Associated Press in a phone interview from his hospital room that he clearly heard several people shout at the officer that Roberson – who was holding a suspect at gunpoint – was a security guard.
It was not the only aspect where Myrickes’ account differed from that of the news release that Illinois State Police issued Tuesday night that for the first time addressed in detail what happened in the predominantly black community of Robbins just south of Chicago. The agency declined to comment beyond the release, which came as questions have swirled about whether the shooting was justified and whether race played a role.
In its release, state police said Roberson was wearing “plain black clothing with no markings readily identifying him as a Security Guard.” However, Myrickes said all the security guards wore knit hats emblazoned with the word “Security” on them and that Roberson wore a black sweat shirt with the word “Security” on the back of his shoulder. But he also acknowledged that it’s possible the officer could not see the white lettering from where he was standing.
The Rev. Michael Pfleger, an outspoken anti-violence advocate, said on Twitter that the officer should “face the same consequences as Jason Van Dyke,” the white officer who was charged with murder and convicted last month in the 2014 killing of black teen Laquan McDonald.
“He must be indicted…and white society’s “fear of black men” must END!!!” Pfleger tweeted.
A coalition of religious leaders including Pfleger and the Rev. Walter Turner have called on Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to investigate.
“We are demanding that this officer not only be fired but he should be charged with murder,” Turner said in a statement. “This on-going epidemic of killing young, black men is becoming equivalent to hate crimes.”
Myrickes was one of six security guards working at the bar at the time, but he is the only one so far to come forward publicly to discuss what happened. A bar patron also told reporters earlier that he heard people yelling at the officer that Roberson was a security guard.
Myrickes, 43, said the initial shooting at the bar stemmed from a fight between two groups of people. As security guards tried to separate them and lead them out separate doors, “Somebody came back and opened fire,” Myrickes said.
He said he wasn’t armed and that he doesn’t believe other security guards fired their weapons.
The officer who shot Roberson was from the nearby community of Midlothian and was among several officers from various agencies who responded to the shooting. Myrickes told the AP that the officer ran into the bar and pointed his gun at a bar customer, the bartender and Myrickes. Myrickes said he informed the officer that he was a security guard, and the officer then went outside.
The Suburban Police officer who killed Jemel Roberson a Security Guard at a Robbins Bar, Must face the same consequences as Jason Van Dyke.. He must be Indicted…..and White Society’s “Fear of Black Men” must END!!!!
Looking out the door, Myrickes said he “could see Jemel had one guy face down, asking him to put his hands behind his back” when he saw the officer point his weapon at Roberson.
“I never heard the cop demand him to do anything, (but) everybody was telling him (Jemel) was security.”
Myrickes also noted that none of the other responding officers opened fire.
Roberson has been hailed for his bravery, including by the Midlothian police chief Daniel Delaney, whose officer opened fire.
Delaney issued a statement Tuesday saying that there were conflicting reports immediately after the shooting about whether Roberson was a suspect or a security guard, reports the Chicago Tribune.
Delaney said in the statement: “Jemel Roberson was a brave man who was doing his best to end an active shooter situation at Manny’s Blue Room.”
We’ve been formally retained to rep. the heirs of #JemelRoberson. We take on representation with a very heavy heart. Up against a system of policing hell bent on taking the very best of us— Midlothian police claimed the life of a truly special young father. Jemel died a hero. pic.twitter.com/reabiCZp7c
“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,” the statement says.
Video of the shooting could reveal exactly what happened, but the agencies involved have not said whether any exists. If any police bodycam video exists, no state law requires that it be released. The Chicago Police Department releases video within 90 days of a shooting, but that policy does not apply because that agency’s officers were not involved.
The Illinois State Police wouldn’t respond to a series of questions from CBS News, including regarding the contradictory accounts of Roberson’s clothing, how much time elapsed between the time the officer shouted commands and opened fire, whether video exists of the shooting, whether the officer pointed his gun at another security guard, and how they respond to those who say race played a role.
A spokesman said the investigation is ongoing and no further information outside of the statement would be released at this time.
Attorney Gregory E. Kulis, who filed a lawsuit contending the shooting was unjustified and unprovoked, said the police release is woefully incomplete.
Kulis, who has also filed a motion asking a judge to order the agencies to preserve any footage they have, also said he doesn’t yet know how many times Roberson was shot or where on his body he was shot.
Roberson was an aspiring police officer who played the organ at his and other area churches. A family attorney has said the young man was a father and that his girlfriend is pregnant with their second child. Another family attorney, Lee Merritt, said Roberson died “a hero.”
“All I know is Jemel was doing his job, and he was doing what was right,” Roberson’s friend, Tywond Hamilton, told CBS Chicago.
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