Black security guard killed by police 'was working extra shifts to buy son Christmas gifts'

'He was a good father. He was a hero'

Sarah Harvard
New York
Saturday 17 November 2018 23:28
Witnesses respond to shooting of black security guard Jemel Roberson by police

Jemel Roberson, a black security guard who stopped a drunk customer from opening fire at a bar, was working extra shifts to buy presents for his son and his child’s mother before police shot and killed him, according to his family’s attorney.

The 26-year-old father was working a shift last week at Manny’s Blue Room, a bar in a southwest Chicago suburb, when a gunman started shooting inside the bar. Roberson apprehended the shooter and pinned him to the ground.

But moments later, a Midlothian police officer approached the scene and shot Roberson. A number of witnesses said they told the officer Roberson was a security guard, but it did not prevent him fatally shooting him.

“Everybody was screaming out, ‘He was a security guard,’” Adam Harris, a witness of the tragic incident, told local reporters. “And they basically saw a black man with a gun and killed him”.

Roberson has a 9-month-old son, Tristan, with his partner Avontae Boose, who is also pregnant with their second child. The news of his death has devastated his partner and left his son longing for his father.

“A family member called me and told me. ... I just broke down crying in the bathroom. For a long time, I was in the bathroom,” Ms Boose told CNN.

Tristan does not know exactly what had happened to his father, but realises he is missing.

“He’s just been calling [for] his dad,” she added.

The Illinois State Police are investigating the police-involved shooting that resulted in Mr Roberson’s death. It defended the officer who shot Mr Roberson by releasing a statement claiming that, “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 weapon and striking” the security guard.”

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Daniel Delaney, the police chief for the Midlothian Police Department, also referred to the shooting as “the equivalent of a ‘blue on blue’ friendly fire incident”.

Lee Merritt, the attorney representing Mr Roberson’s family, does not think that is the case.

“If this was a case where they saw this as a friendly fire, as if a police officer was shot, then this would be handled much differently,” Merritt said to CNN. “There would be more transparency.”

Although Mr Delaney said the officer responsible for shooting Mr Roberson is a white male who worked for the Midlothian Police Department for four years, neither the police department or the Illinois State Police released his identity.

“It’s important to put that name and face out in the public spectrum because it allows the community to report if this officer has a history of brutality,” Mr Merritt said. “That information certainly becomes relevant for any future criminal proceedings.”

The officer is on paid administrative leave until an outcome from the state police investigation is determined, in accordance with the department’s standard policy.

On Wednesday, Mr Delaney released a statement describing Roberson as a “very brave man” and referred to death as a “tragic incident.”

“What we have also learned is Jemel Roberson was a very brave man who was doing his best to end an active shooter situation at Manny’s Blue Room,” the Midlothian Police Chief said.

“The Midlothian Police Department is completely saddened by this tragic incident and we give our heartfelt condolences to Jemel, his mother, his entire family and his friends. There are no words that can be expressed as to the sorrow his family is dealing with.”

Ms Boose, the deceased 26-year-old’s partner, worries about raising his two children alone, but she knows they will remember him for being a hero.

“He was a good father. He was a hero,” Ms Boose said. “I’m going to tell them when they get older - when they get real older - what happened to their father. That he was a hero, and he saved a lot of people.

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