CHICAGO (CBS) — Prosecutors won’t file criminal charges against Ian Covey, a White police officer who shot and killed Jemel Roberson, a Black security guard, outside a south suburban nightclub in 2018.
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office said in a press release they “concluded that the totality of evidence is insufficient to support criminal charges against Midlothian Police Officer Ian Covey.”
“While this conclusion may not be the result that many have hoped for, I can assure you that this investigation was conducted with the highest level of scrutiny,” Foxx stated in the release.
Roberson, 26, was working at Manny’s Blue Room in Robbins on Nov. 11, 2018, when shots were fired after a fight broke out inside the club.
Covey was among the officers who responded to the shooting, and he shot Roberson as the security guard was holding down the gunman, and pointing his weapon at him in the parking lot.
In their initial account of the shooting days after the incident, Illinois State Police said Covey 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. Another security guard at the club also said he told police Roberson was a security guard.
In a memo on the decision not to charge Covey, Foxx’s office wrote that, based on physical evidence and interviews with more than 100 witnesses, evidence would show Roberson was wearing all black clothing with no marks identifying him as a security guard.
Foxx’s office also concluded Covey repeatedly ordered Roberson to “get down” and drop his gun, but Roberson did not acknowledge the officer or follow his commands.
“Believing Mr. Roberson was the active shooter, Officer Covey fired his Rock River Arms Model LAR-15, 5.56 mm caliber rifle four times, striking Mr. Roberson four times on his right side and right back, which was the part of Mr. Roberson’s body facing closest to Officer Covey,” prosecutors wrote.
Prosecutors also said Covey performed “life-saving measures” on Roberson until the scene was cleared for paramedics, and Covey was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
None of the officers at the scene was equipped with a body camera, so the shooting was not recorded on video, but prosecutors said dashboard cameras from police cars at the scene recorded Covey’s verbal commands to Roberson.
“The evidence at any trial would include evidence indicating that when Mr. Roberson did not acknowledge or follow Officer Covey’s verbal commands to get down and drop the gun, it was not unreasonable for Officer Covey to believe that Mr. Roberson was the active shooter on the scene who was intending to cause further harm than already inflicted by killing, or causing great bodily harm to patrons, employees, and police officers on scene,” prosecutors wrote.
“I am acutely aware in this age of civil unrest that police-involved shootings are viewed under a microscope, as they very well should be,” Fox wrote in a press release on her office’s decision. “The death of Jemel Roberson is tragically heartbreaking, and while it might feel to some people like justice was not served here, I have both an ethical and legal obligation to make charging decisions based on the law and the evidence.”
Covey was placed on paid administrative leave after the shooting, pending the results of the Illinois State Police investigation. It was not immediately clear if he has been allowed to return to duty.
Roberson’s family has filed a civil lawsuit against Covey and the village of Midlothian, calling the shooting unreasonable, unprovoked and unjustified.