The call comes into police headquarters in Midlothian, Illinois early Sunday morning: a man has entered Manny’s Blue Room Bar in nearby Robbins with a gun after having been kicked out by an armed security guard earlier in the evening. The police are dispatched, but meanwhile, the angry drunken patron begins to fire his gun in the bar.
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Luckily for the people remaining in Manny’s, the establishment employed an armed security guard to respond to unlikely events such as this. 26-year-old Jemel Roberson returned the gunman’s shots and somehow managed to get him outside the bar and wrestle him to the ground.
Roberson subdued the man and held him at gunpoint until help arrived, with witness Adam Harris describing the scene thusly to Chicago’s WGN-TV News:
“He had somebody on the ground with his knee in back, with his gun in his back like, ‘Don’t move,'” Harris said.
Police arrive at the chaotic scene. They see Roberson, who happens to be African-American, with a gun pointed at a man on the ground. An officer makes a split-second decision.
Now Roberson lays dead on the ground next to the drunken assailant, an innocent victim of generations of social conditioning that leads even police officers who are supposed to be trained to quickly and properly assess the situation in active crime scenes to shoot the black man even when he’s the largely mythical “good guy with a gun” that the NRA loves to champion.
Harris told WGN-TV News how the events unfolded:
“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.”
Chief Daniel Delaney of the Midlothian Police Department issued a statement that glossed over the details of the killing and didn’t even address the case of misidentification that led to the unnecessary and reckless shooting death.
“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,” Chief Delaney said.
Ironically, Roberson, a musician at several local churches, had plans to transition from his security guard position to become a police officer himself. Rev. Patricia Hill of Purposed Church, one of the ministries where the late security guard played keyboards and drums, pointed out the tragedy inherent in the death of a man who wanted to become a part of law enforcement being killed by the very people he sought to work with.
“He was getting ready to train and do all that stuff, so the very people he wanted to be family with, took his life,” she said.
Another minister at Purposed Church, Rev. LeAundre Hill said:
“Once again, it’s the continued narrative that we see of shoot first, ask questions later.”
The investigation of the incident has now been split between the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, which is investigating the original shooting by the ejected drunken patron, and the State Police Public Integrity Task Force, which is investigating the shooting by the police officer.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help cover Roberson’s funeral costs.
Naturally, there are risks involved for anyone taking a job as an armed security guard. However, when the risks involve being killed by police who don’t take the time to understand the crime scene before they start shooting and simply aim at the black man with a gun, it’s time to review the level of systematic racism in our local police forces and figure out how to prevent such a tragedy from ever taking place again.
You can watch the WGN-TV News report on the shooting below.
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Original reporting by Erik Runge and Gaynor Hall at WGN-TV News.