Death of black security guard brings call for probe
Chicago – A suburban Chicago alderman has called for Cook County prosecutors to investigate the fatal shooting of a black security guard by a white police officer outside the bar where the guard worked.
Authorities have said little about the scene early Sunday that ended with the death of 26-year-old Jemel Roberson, who was apparently wearing a hat emblazoned with “security” across the front when he was shot 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.
“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.
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.
In a statement, Midlothian Police Chief Daniel Delaney said only that the officer shot “a subject with a gun.”
Kulis 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, 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.
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.