CHICAGO – Witnesses told investigators that a white suburban Chicago police officer who fatally shot a black security guard outside the bar where the guard worked had repeatedly asked him to drop a gun, Illinois State Police revealed without addressing reports that bar patrons had shouted at the officer that the man was a security guard.
The news release sent late Tuesday night marks the first time that Illinois State Police have addressed in detail what happened early Sunday when officers were dispatched to the bar in response to a shots-fired call. It comes as questions have swirled about whether the shooting was justified and whether race played a role.
According to previous reports, when officers from various departments arrived, they found at least three people had been shot inside the bar. Security guard Jamel Roberson was outside, armed with a gun, holding a suspect.
An attorney who is representing Roberson's mother in a $1 million lawsuit over the shooting has said that the 26-year-old was wearing a hat emblazoned with the word "Security' on it. However, the police news release says only that Roberson was wearing "plain black clothing with no markings readily identifying him as a Security Guard." It says nothing about a hat.
State police declined to comment beyond what was in the release.
The release did not say why Illinois State Police took the unusual step of revealing information before the agency's investigation is completed, other than to include a request for witnesses to come forward.
Robbins is a predominantly black community just south of Chicago, and the officer is from the nearby community of Midlothian. The officer is on paid leave. His name has not been released.
Attorney Gregory Kulis, who filed a lawsuit contending the shooting was unjustified and unprovoked, said the police release is woefully incomplete.
For starters, he said witnesses have told him that they yelled repeatedly both before and as the officer raised his weapon that Roberson was a security guard. Kulis suggested it's possible there was no mention of Roberson's knit cap because witnesses said it came off as emergency workers tried to administer CPR.
Video of the shooting could reveal exactly what happened, but the agencies involved have not said whether any exists. If any police bodycam video exists, no state law requires that it be released. The Chicago Police Department releases video within 90 days of a shooting, but that policy does not apply because that agency's officers were not involved.
Kulis also said he doesn't yet know how many times Roberson was shot or where on his body he was shot.
"I talked to the family after they viewed his body and they said they (authorities) did not tell them how many times he'd been shot," he said.