A black Chicago-area church musician who was moonlighting as a security guard was killed by police Sunday morning as they responded to a call of shots fired at the bar where the man worked.
Jemel Roberson, 26, had already subdued the alleged assailant in the initial shooting at Manny’s Blue Room Lounge, in Robbins, when police arrived, witnesses told WGN-TV.
“He had somebody on the ground with his knee in his back, with his gun in his back, like, ‘Don’t move,’” Adam Harris told the news station.
An officer arrived on the scene a short time later. That officer shot Roberson, killing him.
“Everybody was screaming out, ‘Security! He was a security guard!’ Harris said. “And they still did their job and saw a black man with a gun and, basically, killed him.”
Though law enforcement officials have not confirmed the race of the officer who shot Roberson, witnesses told WGN that the officer is white.
NPR reported that Roberson was in uniform, wearing a hat with the word “Security” emblazoned on it. He had a license to carry the weapon he was holding when he was killed.
Four other people, including the suspected shooter from the initial incident, were injured, but none of their injuries were life-threatening, NPR reported.
Midlothian police officials said in a statement Sunday afternoon that their department received a call for assistance from the nearby Robbins Police Department. The call, which came in around 4:05 a.m., stated that someone was shooting people at Manny’s.
Two officers responded.
“Upon arrival, officers learned there were several gunshot victims inside the bar,” the statement said. “A Midlothian officer encountered a subject with a gun and was involved in an officer-involved shooting. The subject the officer shot was later pronounced deceased at an area hospital.”
Video posted on Facebook by witnesses showed the aftermath of the fatal shooting. In one video, a police officer can be seen performing CPR on Roberson as other officers mill around and hold back the distraught crowd.
Watch the video recorded by witness Adam Harris below. Warning: Images and language may be too graphic for some viewers.
The Cook County Sheriff’s Office and the Robbins Police Department are investigating the criminal aspect of the initial shooting, the statement said. The Illinois State Police’s Public Integrity Task Force is investigating the officer-involved shooting.
The police shooting was the subject of widespread criticism on social media.
“The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Unless the good guy is black, then he gets killed, too,” Wendy Osefo, a Johns Hopkins professor and political commentator, wrote on Twitter.
Michael Skolnik, a civil rights activist and board member of the Trayvon Martin Foundation, pointed out that Roberson had stopped a potential mass shooting inside the bar.
“While he was holding the suspect down, cops arrived and shot him,” Skolnik wrote.
Roberson, the father of a 9-month-old son, is described on a GoFundMe page set up to raise funds for his funeral as a person who was loved by all who knew him.
“He was the light of his mother Beatrice’s life, and was a devoted, loving son,” the fundraising page said. “Jemel was a gifted basketball player and musician, and his love for God and his family were at the forefront of his life.”
The GoFundMe page had raised more than $46,000 of its $50,000 goal by Tuesday morning. A candlelight vigil was held Monday night for Roberson outside the bar where he was killed.
Roberson played keyboard and drums at several area churches, friends told WGN. He also planned to become a police officer.
“Every artist he’s ever played for, every musician he’s ever sat beside, we’re all just broken because we have no answers,” Rev. Patricia Hill of Purposed Church told the news station. “He was getting ready to train and do all that stuff, so the very people he wanted to be family with took his life.”
Another pastor at Purposed Church, Rev. LeAundre Hill, expressed disbelieve on Twitter, saying that Roberson played music at the funeral for Hill’s grandmother just two days before his death.
Hill told WGN that Roberson’s death follows a pattern seen all two often in the United States.
“Once again, it’s the continued narrative that we see of shoot first, ask questions later,” Hill said.
Roberson’s mother, Beatrice Roberson, has filed a federal lawsuit in the shooting, which the filing describes as unprovoked, unjustified, excessive and unreasonable, court documents show. The lawsuit seeks damages of more than $1 million.
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