By now, you’ve probably seen or heard about the tragic death of Jemel Roberson in Illinois. Jemel was, by all accounts, the quintessential example of “a good guy with a gun.” A security guard with designs on becoming a police officer, he was doing his job over the weekend - protecting the patrons of Manny’s Blue Bar - when he was shot and killed by police officers who mistook him for a criminal.
Jemel was 26 years old, a new dad, in uniform, licensed to carry his firearm. Now, he’s another gun violence statistic, and it is impossible to ignore the role that race may have played in the shooting.
Witnesses say Roberson was wearing his uniform, including a hat emblazoned with the word "security," and was holding a firearm he was licensed to carry.
Midlothian police confirmed that two officers responded to the scene at the bar on Sunday and that one of them opened fire.
"Everybody was screaming out 'Security!' " Harris told WGN. "And they still did their job, and saw a black man with a gun, and basically killed him."
Jemel’s death also brings up the broader issue of “good guys with guns.” It’s not difficult to envision this exact scenario playing out with an armed teacher, in the chaos of the aftermath of another school shooting. Or a concealed carry holder doing what the NRA has told us time and again is the rationale for being armed in public - defending himself - when police arrive. Combine the fact that law enforcement use their weapons in this country with greater frequency than elsewhere in the world with the continued issue of shooting first and asking questions later, and the conclusion is inescapable - it’s just as dangerous to be a good guy with a gun as a bad guy with a gun. Statistically, this danger is far greater if you’re African American.
Jemel’s family has sued the officer who killed him, as well as the department:
The Cook County Sheriff's Office is handling the criminal investigation of the original shooting, while the State Police Public Integrity Task Force is investigating the police-involved shooting.
Roberson's family said in addition to the holding the officer who shot him responsible, his family wants Roberson to be remembered as a hero.
His family and friends believe there was a racial element to the situation because the cop who shot him was white. Law enforcement has not confirmed the race of the officer.
The lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $1 million.