CHICAGO (CBS) — Calling 26-year-old Jemel Roberson a “national hero” for tackling a shooting suspect at a bar in south suburban Robbins, a group of Chicago area ministers on Friday called for the police officer who shot and killed Roberson to be fired and charged with murder.
“We’re not going to tolerate a cover-up. We’re not going to tolerate this being swept under the rug. We’re calling for a full investigation,” Rev. Marshall Hatch said Friday morning outside the Midlothian Police Department.
Early Sunday morning, a gunman opened fire inside Manny’s Blue Room Lounge in Robbins, where Roberson was a security guard. By the time police arrived, Roberson had subdued a suspect outside the bar, and was holding him down at gunpoint.
Witnesses and police have provided conflicting accounts of what happened next.
Illinois State Police have said a Midlothian police officer gave Roberson multiple verbal commands to drop his weapon, and Roberson was not wearing clothing clearly identifying him as a security guard.
However, witnesses and Roberson’s family attorney have said he was wearing a cap and shirt labeled “security,” and that people at the scene told the officer Roberson was a security guard. According to published reports, another security guard at the bar said the officer shot Roberson less than five seconds after telling him to drop the gun.
Hatch and other ministers gathered at the Midlothian Police Department on Friday, calling on the officer who killed Roberson to be identified, and to be fired.
“Obviously, there were several other officers on the scene. He’s the only officer that fired a weapon, whatever his name,” Hatch said. “He’s an outlier, and so therefore they need to give him up, and he needs to be held responsible for his actions.”
Hatch and the other ministers called for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office to conduct a full investigation of the shooting, and said they want to make sure the clothing Roberson was wearing when he died is preserved.
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Rev. Michael Pfleger said the officer also should be charged with murder.
“That’s what it was. It was murder. It was not ‘blue on blue’ crime, it was blue on black crime. It was not an accidental shooting. Rather, there was an officer who pulled up to the scene, pulled out his gun, and fired. Jemel was on top of the offender, protecting other people,” he said.
Midlothian Police Chief Daniel Delaney has said his department views the shooting as “the equivalent of a ‘blue on blue’ friendly fire incident,” calling Roberson a “brave man doing his best to end an active shooter situation.”
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Pfleger said the fatal shooting was a clear case of racial profiling. Authorities have confirmed the officer who shot Roberson is white. Roberson was black.
“Jemel Roberson is dead for no other reason than doing his job, protecting people. Let’s not ignore the elephant in the room. The problem with Jemel is he was black, and this mystery officer needs to be fired,” he said. “As a white person, I say to white society, it’s time to stop fearing the black man, and treat him like you treat your own brothers and sisters.”
Rev. Walter Turner, pastor of New Spiritual Light Missionary Baptist Church, accused Illinois State Police of trying to “muddy up” Roberson’s character.
“It bothers me that every time a black man is killed, the first thing that they attack is his character,” he said.
In addition to working as a security guard, Roberson was a gospel musician who played the piano and organ at several Chicago area churches. Turner said he recently hired Roberson as the full-time organist at his church, and Roberson was set to begin that job on the day he was killed.
“Here’s a young man today is a national hero. He’s a national hero because he saved lives on that night, and it bothers me of how we can kill black man at the drop of the hat,” he said.
A vigil for Roberson has been planned for Friday night at Lane Tech High School, his alma mater.