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Black security guard wanted to be a cop — then police mistakenly killed him, pastor says

Jemel Roberson was shot and killed at Manny’s Blue Room in Robbins, Illinois, after police responded to a bar fight and found the black security guard with a gun, witnesses say. He was a musician and aspiring cop.
Jemel Roberson was shot and killed at Manny’s Blue Room in Robbins, Illinois, after police responded to a bar fight and found the black security guard with a gun, witnesses say. He was a musician and aspiring cop. Screenshot from GoFundMe

For Patricia Hill, the pastor of Purposed Hill in Chicago, the police killing of 26-year-old Jemel Roberson is especially hard to understand.

That’s because Roberson, along with being a musician for nearby churches, had dreamed of being a police officer, Hill told WGN-TV. He was working at Manny’s Blue Room, a bar in Robbins, Illinois, as an armed security guard when shots rang out early Sunday morning, she said.

“The very people that he wanted to be family with took his life,” Hill told WGN-TV.

When police arrived to help, they found Roberson armed with a gun and on top of another patron at the bar as he tried to stop the fight until authorities arrived, witness Adam Harris told Fox32.

“The security guard that got killed, he caught somebody and had his knee on him the whole time,” Harris said, according to Fox32. “Just waiting on the police to get there. I guess when the police got there, they probably thought he was one of the bad guys, cause he had his gun on the guy and they shot him.”

But Harris told WGN-TV that “everybody” tried to warn the responding officers that Roberson was a security guard who was trying to subdue a suspect — and not a threat.

“Everybody was screaming out ‘security, he was a security guard,” Harris told the outlet, “and they still did their job and saw a black man with a gun and basically killed him.”

Sophia Ansari, a spokeswoman for the Cook County sheriff’s office, told The Chicago Sun-Times that officers first got word of gunfire at the bar sometime after 4 a.m. on Sunday morning. Four people had been shot inside the bar after an argument had broken out, police say, and a responding officer from the Midlothian Police Department fired at Roberson.

He later died at a nearby hospital, according to CBS Chicago, while the four others are being treated for their injuries.

The Midlothian Police Department told The Chicago Sun-Times in a statement that Illinois State Police are investigating the shooting.

“It is the policy of the Midlothian Police Department to utilize the Illinois State Police Public Integrity Task Force for any officer-involved shootings so we can ensure transparency and maintain public trust,” Midlothian police said, according to the newspaper.

As that investigation continues, some have questions about whether this could have been prevented.

Walter Turner, a pastor at New Spiritual Light Baptist Church in Chicago, said he shared a good relationship with Roberson, who played the organ at his church, according to WLS. He expressed confusion at 26-year-old’s sudden killing.

“How in the world does the security guard get shot by police?” Turner said, according to WLS. “A young man that was literally doing his job and now he’s gone.”

In 2012, 31 percent of the people killed by police officers in the U.S. were black — even though they make up just 13 percent of the overall population, according to an analysis of FBI data from Vox.

Stephon Clark was shot by Sacramento Police officers on March 18, 2018. The shooting prompted major protests and resulted in police department policy changes. See a timeline of the events that have transpired since that night.

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