CBS/AP November 14, 2018, 12:40 PM State police contradict witness accounts of black security guard's killing by officer
ROBBINS, Illinois — In their first official account of the police shooting that killed an armed black security guard outside a bar in suburban Chicago early Sunday, Illinois State Police say Jemel Roberson ignored an officer's "multiple verbal commands" to drop his gun and get on the ground. The state police account contradicts witnesses who say Roberson, 26, was wearing clothing that identified him as a security guard, saying instead he was wearing "plain black clothing with no markings."
The Illinois State Police is investigating the shooting by the white Midlothian officer, who has not been identified. Protesters gathered Tuesday outside the Midlothian Police Department, some carrying portraits of Roberson. A memorial of candles took shape nearby. Advocates planned a rally Wednesday to demand justice for Roberson amid calls for prosecutors to investigate.
Police said a gunman had entered Manny's Blue Room Lounge in Robbins early Sunday morning, and shot and wounded multiple people inside the bar. When officers arrived at the scene, Roberson was holding down a suspect on the ground outside the bar, witnesses told CBS Chicago.
"A Midlothian Police Officer encountered a subject in plain black clothing with no markings readily identifying him as a Security Guard, armed with a gun in the west parking lot," state police said late Tuesday. "According to witness statements, the Midlothian officer gave the armed subject multiple verbal commands to drop the gun and get on the ground before ultimately discharging his gun and striking the subject."
Illinois State Police said the investigation later determined that the "armed subject" was a security guard and was "attempting to subdue a subject believed to be involved in the initial shooting" when he was killed.
An attorney for Roberson's mother says Roberson was holding down a shooting suspect and wearing a hat emblazoned with the word "security" when he was shot.
Roberson's family has sued the village of Midlothian and the unnamed officer involved, calling the shooting unreasonable, unprovoked, and unjustified. An official in a neighboring community has asked prosecutors to investigate, saying he's concerned race played a role in the shooting.
"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.
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.
Another security guard at the tavern said the 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.
In a statement, Midlothian Police Chief Daniel Delaney said only that the officer shot "a subject with a gun." The officer has been placed on administrative leave, which is standard in such shootings until the investigation is complete, the chief said.
Kulis would not say if he thinks race played a role in Chicago-area shooting, but the fact that the 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 officer, who he said came to the Midlothian department four years ago from another department and is a member of a SWAT team.
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. Some community members have called for the release of any video, reports CBS Chicago.
"They say there's footage. Where is the footage? Let due process properly take its place in terms of what happened here," pastor Mitchell Lee Hicks told the station.
The Illinois State Police didn't immediately respond Monday morning to a series of questions from CBS News, including about what kind of video, if any, captured the incident and whether it will be released.
In his $1 million 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.