It was 4 a.m. on a Sunday morning when a group of rowdy drunks were kicked out of an Illinois bar. Outside the bar, one of the men pulled out a gun and opened fire, wounding four people.
A security guard named Jemel Roberson managed to apprehend the shooter before he was able to kill anybody.
But the 26-year-old aspiring cop was shot dead by a police officer responding to the scene who mistook him for the gunman.
The initial narrative from the Midthodian Police Department was that officer Ian Covey shot Roberson dead after he ignored “verbal commands” which made Covey fear for everybody’s safety.
But witnesses say Covey shot Roberson within five seconds of issuing his verbal commands – even after several people tried to warn him Roberson was the good guy. Audio from his dash camera confirms those statements.
One witness said a cop turned to Covey in the seconds after the shooting, expressing disappointment in his reckless decision that led to the death of an innocent man in suburbia Chicago on November 11, 2018.
“Man you didn’t have to do that,” the cop is alleged to have told him, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“You didn’t have to do that. We know these guys. We told you they’re security.”
But after an almost two-year investigation, Illinois prosecutors earlier this month determined that Covey did nothing wrong when he shot and killed Roberson, concluding the “use of force was objectively reasonable.”
The officers were not wearing body cameras so the Cook County State Attorney’s Office based its decision after “investigators interviewed over 100 law enforcement and civilian witnesses, and reviewed 911 calls, police radio transmissions, police in-car cameras, cell phone videos, private surveillance video, photographs of the scene, police reports, medical records and the results of forensic examinations.”
According to the statement from the prosecutor’s office:
At approximately 4:00 A.M., a physical altercation erupted inside of Manny’s Blue Room Lounge which necessitated security guards, including Jemel Roberson, removing patrons from the establishment. The altercation escalated and several individuals fired multiple gunshots inside and outside of the lounge, resulting in four people being shot. At the time of the shooting, Robbins Police officers were on scene and requested assistance from surrounding police departments. Several patrons and a wounded employee called 911 seeking police assistance. Officers from approximately ten police agencies, including local, county, and state responded to the calls for assistance. Midlothian Police Officer Ian Covey arrived in the parking lot of Manny’s dressed in full police uniform in a marked police vehicle equipped with an in-car camera and microphone. Officer Covey was not issued a Body-Worn Camera. None of the suburban police officers who responded prior to or during the officer-involved shooting were issued Body-Worn Cameras.
Officer Covey observed a male, now known to be Jemel Roberson, wearing all black clothing with no identifying markings, straddled over a male who he held face down on the ground. Mr. Roberson held the gun in his right hand which he pointed toward the front area of the bar where patrons were exiting and responding officers were arriving. Mr. Roberson’s clothing had no indication that he was a security guard. Officer Covey ordered Mr. Roberson repeatedly to, “Get down” and drop the gun. Mr. Roberson turned in Officer Covey’s direction but did not acknowledge or follow Officer Covey’s verbal 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. A Glock 17 semiautomatic handgun fell from Mr. Roberson’s right hand and was recovered by officers.
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 the patrons, employees, and police officers on scene.
No video footage captured the shooting. However, Officer Covey’s in-car camera microphone recorded the verbal commands Officer Covey gave as he entered Manny’s as well as those he gave to Mr. Roberson.
While it’s true the footage from Covey’s patrol car captures what sounds like a cop ordering commands before several gunshots are fired, it also confirms that the opened fire within five seconds of ordering the commands. That footage can be seen towards the end of the above video.
After initially blaming Roberson for his own death for ignoring commands, Midthodian Police Chief Daniel Delaney referred to the shooting as a “blue on blue friendly fire incident,” according to CBS Chicago.
Roberson’s family still has a pending lawsuit over his death which you can read here.