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Police Officer Died After Inhaling Fumes

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Chicago Police Officer Kevin Robinson (handout/CBS)

Chicago Police Officer Kevin Robinson (handout/CBS)

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Updated 09/21/11 – 8:07 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Noxious chemical fumes caused the death of a Chicago police officer, weeks after he breathed in fumes from a cleaning solution at the Morgan Park District police station, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office.

Autopsy results released Wednesday revealed that Tactical Officer Kevin Robinson, 42, died on April 4 from a lung illness that resulted from the “inhalation of noxious fumes,” an autopsy released on Wednesday revealed. Robinson’s death was ruled an accident.

The fumes came from a cleaning solution that a janitor sprayed at the Morgan Park police station.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger Reports

A police spokeswoman said the department was reviewing the autopsy report, but declined further comment.

Robinson’s partner told CBS 2’s Mai Martinez that the autopsy results bring those who knew and loved Robinson a step closer to closure, but they won’t be at peace until they know that what happened to him will not happen to anyone else.

His family also said they are disappointed with the Police Department.

“He was my champion. He was a very good father to my grandkids. He loved them so very much,” his mother, Seretha Robinson, said.

It’s been more than five months since Seretha Robinson lost her only child, but the pain hasn’t faded.

“Some days I’m up, but most of the time, I’m down; because my son is not here anymore,” she said. “I can’t share those happy times that we used to have.”

According to Robinson’s partner, Robinson was in roll call on March 7 at the Morgan Park District station on Monterey Avenue when a custodian came in and sprayed some type of cleaning solution.

Robinson simply breathed in some of the fumes. According to his partner, the next day Robinson didn’t feel well and started coughing and wheezing.

“He must have felt something initially, but he didn’t show any signs of it, I would say, until probably the next day,” Smith said.

Officer Robinson decided to go to the hospital and ended up being admitted.

His condition worsened over the next few weeks, and Robinson died on April 4.

“The doctor told me, ‘Well his lung should be spongy, but they’re like leather now,’” Seretha Robinson said.

Since Officer Robinson’s death, his family and friends have said there have been many questions, but few answers. They said that finally having an official cause of death is a step in the right direction.

“Nothing is going to bring my partner back. That made me just feel something towards closure. … We still have to move on with our lives, but we’d like to know exactly what happened to my partner,” Chicago Police Officer Curtis Smith said. “If it is indeed found that the chemical that he inhaled had a lot to do with what happened to him, let’s try to correct that so that that doesn’t happen again to some other family.”

Officer Robinson’s mother echoed that sentiment.

“My only hope is that this never – and I can’t stop saying this – It never will happen to somebody else again. No one deserve this,” she said.

Smith said he’d like to see Robinson’s death designated as “in the line of duty,” so his family would receive the same death benefits extended to the family’s of officers who are killed or die in the line of duty.

“We being police officers, there’s so many things that we … fear on the streets could happen to us and to inhale a chemical and pass from it, that’s nothing that we think about at all,” Smith said.

Robinson’s mother thinks his death could have been prevented.

“You don’t come in and spray chemicals while there are human beings around,” she said.

Adding to her pain is the lack of answers from the Police Department about her son’s death.

“Respond to us, in a timely fashion. Let us know we are still part of your police force, we’re still part of your family,” his mother said. “Don’t treat us like we are the black sheep of the family.”

Police said the Illinois Department of Labor is investigating Robinson’s death.

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