The Illinois State Police Public Integrity Task Force released a preliminary report less than three days after the shooting of Jemel Roberson, Black security guard in Robbins, Ill, which contradicted what witnesses and Roberson’s family attorney have said.
It claims witnesses said Roberson was wearing “plain black clothing with no markings readily identifying him as a Security Guard” and that the Midloathian officer gave “multiple verbal commands to drop the gun and get on the ground before ultimately discharging his weapon and striking the subject.”
The task force’s involvement in the use of force investigation was requested by Midloathian police, and Greg Kulis, the family’s attorney, questions its credibility and its quick release of a report.
Jakia Woods, a witness who lives next to the bar’s parking lot, said Roberson was already complying with the request from officers on the scene in releasing the bar shooting suspect when another officer came through the bar’s back door and shot Roberson.
“Before [Roberson] could get up off of him, the officer comes flying out this door gun up. He says, ‘Get on the ground,’ and before he says ‘ground,’ he fires the first shot,” Woods said.
The discrepancies in the stories lead some to wonder the motives of all involved.
Kulis said he’s never seen state police issue a statement with preliminary findings within days, but instead has had to fight months to get reports from the agency. He also cited a joint investigation by WBEZ and Better Government Association that found in over 100 police shooting cases in Cook County, zero officers since 2005 had been disciplined, fired or criminally charged.
“They can say what they want to say, the facts will, hopefully, ultimately show what occurred,” he said and added regarding the past record of task force investigations, “Out of 100-and-something shootings, I don’t believe that 113 of them were justified.”
A friend of Roberson’s, Christian Torres, who knew of Roberson’s police department dreams, questioned race as a factor. “Now you have to question the police and what they’re actually doing. This is someone who was on their side.”
Mayor Tyrone Ward wondered if the outcome of that night could’ve been different: “I wish it had been one of our (officers) who came across the situation. They may have been more familiar with security (at the bar). That’s my honest opinion.”
Midloathian Police Chief Daniel Delaney, who originally referred to Roberson as “a subject with a gun”, later said, “We view this as the equivalent of a ‘blue on blue,’ friendly fire incident,” and praised him for his work as a security guard.
The department said the unnamed officer, who previously worked for another law enforcement agency and was a team leader for SWAT in Chicago’s south suburbs, has been placed on leave. It’s unclear whether or not it’s paid.
Illinois State Police Sgt. Jacqueline Cepeda said: “At this time the investigation is open and ongoing, and the press release sent out (Tuesday) is all we will be disseminating as of now. Should we send any additional information out regarding any updates to the case we will ensure you receive the information.”
None of this gives the family, who is seeking $1 million in damages in their civil law suit, any more peace.
Kulis said Roberson’s mother just wants to know “what happened and why it happened,” adding: “If somebody took your son, you’d want answers, too.”