Police chief ‘saddened’ after officer killed armed guard — ‘a brave man who was doing his best’

Jemel Roberson had dreams of becoming a police officer. He was killed by one.

The 26-year-old was working as an armed security guard Sunday when he tried to intervene during a shooting outside a Chicago-area bar. Officers arrived, and — officials later said — saw a man with a gun. A Midlothian police officer opened fire after ordering the man to drop the weapon.

That man was Roberson. He was trying to subdue one of the suspects, investigators later said, when the officer shot him. Roberson later died at a hospital.

Now — amid an uproar and questions about police training and operations — the city’s police chief said he is mourning the loss of Roberson.

“What we have learned is Jemel Roberson was a brave man who was doing his best to end an active shooter situation at Manny’s Blue Room,” Midlothian Police Chief Daniel Delaney wrote Tuesday on Facebook. “The Midlothian Police Department is completely saddened by this tragic incident and we give our heartfelt condolences to Jemel, his family and his friends. There are no words that can be expressed as to the sorrow his family is dealing with.”

The department has not released the name of the officer, who has been put on administrative leave.

According to a federal lawsuit filed by Beatrice Roberson, her son was working security early Sunday at Manny’s Blue Room Bar in Robbins, Ill., when “some patrons shot the bartender and others were shot.”

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Illinois, says Roberson’s civil rights were violated.

Family attorney Gregory Kulis said Roberson’s mother just wants to know “what happened and why it happened,” adding: “If somebody took your son, you’d want answers, too.”

Investigators said the police response began after reports of gunfire in a dispute at the bar after 4 a.m. on Sunday. Officers from two departments, including Midlothian’s, arrived to find Roberson armed and trying to subdue a suspect in a parking lot.

The officer who killed Roberson “gave the armed subject multiple verbal commands to drop the gun and get on the ground” before he fired, according to a preliminary report by the Illinois State Police that cited witnesses. Officers provided medical aid to multiple victims, including Roberson, the report found.

But the report did not say how long the officer waited before he fired or whether he identified himself as a police officer. Investigators also appear to distance officers from accountability to determine who is a threat, and who is not.

Roberson wore “no markings readily identifying him as a security guard,” the report found.

Witnesses have also said they tried to warn officers that Roberson was trying to help.

“Everybody was screaming out, ‘He was a security guard,’ and they basically saw a black man with a gun and killed him,” Adam Harris told WGN.

Jemel Roberson and his son, Tristan. (Avontea Boose via AP)

Kulis, the family attorney, said Roberson was doing what he was supposed to when he was shot and killed.

“He was a hero. He probably saved lives,” Kulis said.

People close to Roberson said he had hoped to become a police officer. “And lo and behold, a police officer comes in and kills him,” Kulis said. “That’s a tragedy.”

The incident closely tracks with theoretical situations that advocates have suggested would curtail violence — a weapon is drawn, shots are fired, and then a “good guy with a gun” steps in to help before the police can respond.

That ideal doesn’t account for the chaotic unknowns when police arrive and can’t tell a “good guy” with a gun from a “bad guy” with a gun.

The incident may become a touchstone in a persistent debate about how places such as schools, nightclubs and houses of worship should steel themselves against gunmen.

That debate has gained urgency during the past year, as President Trump and others have repeatedly said security guards — specifically armed ones — could have prevented the nation’s mass shootings; this year, Trump tweeted his support for the controversial idea of arming teachers.

The Sunday incident has already provoked concerns that black men — even when legally carrying firearms or employed in positions that allows their use — can still become targets for police fire.

Roberson’s friends said he had talked all his life of becoming a police officer.

“Now you have to question the police and what they’re actually doing,” said Christian Torres, 21. “This is someone who was on their side.”

Roberson had a valid gun owner’s license but did not have a concealed-carry permit, WGN reported. In Minnesota in 2016, Philando Castile was killed by an officer during a traffic stop seconds after he told an officer there was a weapon in the car.

The Cook County Sheriff’s Office and the Robbins Police Department, neither of which responded to requests for comment, are investigating the shooting that first drew the police to the scene, Delaney said.

Illinois State Police will investigate Roberson’s killing by the Midlothian officer.

Roberson is one of at least 840 people who have been shot and killed by police so far in 2018 and one of at least 19 in Illinois, according to a Washington Post database.

At least 181 of those shot and killed by police this year — 22 percent — were black. The U.S. population is about 13 percent black.

More than half of those killed — 459 people, including Roberson — were said to be armed when police killed them.

The oldest of four children, Roberson grew up in Wicker Park, a neighborhood in the North Side of Chicago about 27 miles from Robbins. His family said he was in law school and was a role model for his peers, inspiring young men to become involved with the church.

“He was dedicated to the Wicker community in a real positive way.” said Malik Harris, 20, a cousin of Roberson’s.

The Rev. Marvin Hunter told the Associated Press that Roberson played organ at his church and others in the area. He called him an “upstanding” young man who was working to regain custody of his son and earn money for a new apartment.

Hunter is the great-uncle of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager who was shot and killed by a white Chicago police officer in 2014.

Michael Brice-Saddler, Mark Guarino, Justin Jouvenal and Wesley Lowery contributed to this report.

Read More

Authorities: Custody dispute played role in family’s slaying

WAVERLY, Ohio (AP) — Authorities arrested a family of four Tuesday in the gruesome 2016 slayings of eight people from another family in rural Ohio, a crime that prosecutors suggested stemmed from a custody dispute.

The announcement marked the culmination of a massive investigative effort that began after seven adults and a teenage boy were found shot in the head at four separate homes in April 2016. The killings terrified local residents and spawned rumors that it was a drug hit.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said a grand jury indicted the four on aggravated murder charges and they could be sentenced to death if convicted. DeWine gave scant detail about why the victims were killed, but he said the custody of a young child played a role. He added that the accused had carefully planned the murders for months.

“There certainly was an obsession with custody, obsession with control of children,” DeWine said.

Those indicted were Edward “Jake” Wagner, 26, his father George “Billy” Wagner III, 47; Billy Wagner’s wife, 48-year-old Angela Wagner and George Wagner, 27. The four lived near the scenes of the massacre about 60 miles (97 kilometers) south of Columbus and had long been considered chief suspects, DeWine said.

“They did this quickly, coldly, calmly, and very carefully. But not carefully enough,” said Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader. “They left traces. They left a trail.”

The victims were Jake Wagner’s longtime former girlfriend, 19-year-old Hanna Rhoden, who shared custody of their daughter, her parents, siblings and other relatives. Rhoden had been in bed with her newborn when she was killed. The baby wasn’t hurt.

A coroner said all but one of the victims was shot more than once, including two people shot five times and one shot nine times. Some also had bruising, consistent with the first 911 caller’s description of two victims appearing to have been beaten.

“I just might tell you this is just the most bizarre story I’ve ever seen in being involved in law enforcement,” said DeWine, who was elected governor earlier this month.

A lawyer for the Wagner family maintained their innocence.

“We look forward to the day when the true culprits will be discovered and brought to justice for this terrible tragedy,” the lawyer, John Clark, said in a statement Tuesday. “The Wagners are also very hopeful that in the ensuing months there will be a thorough vetting of all the facts.”

DeWine and Reader said Tuesday that the Wagners studied the layouts of the victims’ properties, as well as their habits, routines, sleeping locations and pets. The indictments accuse the Wagners of tampering with phones, cameras, a gun silencer, shell casings and parts of a home security system.

DeWine said there was “absolutely no evidence” anyone else was involved.

Investigators scrambling to determine who targeted the Rhoden family and why conducted over 130 interviews and processed over 100 pieces of evidence and 550 tips, with assistance from more than 20 law enforcement agencies. The last significant piece of evidence was collected Oct. 30, DeWine said.

First mention of the suspects came in June of 2017, when authorities announced they were seeking information about the Wagners, including details on their personal and business interactions, and conversations people may have had with them.

None was named a suspect at the time. Investigators also said they had searched property in southern Ohio sold by the Wagners.

Both Jake Wagner and Angela Wagner told the Cincinnati Enquirer that they were not involved in the April 2016 killings. Angela Wagner said what happened was devastating and Hanna Rhoden had been like a daughter to her. She said that her husband, Billy, and Christopher Rhoden Sr., one of the victims, had been more like brothers than friends.

The Wagner family lived in Peebles, Ohio, at the time of the killings but later moved to Alaska, returning in the spring.

Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk cautioned that the case could last several years, and it’s possible the trial relocated because of the publicity.

“This has been so long coming. Thank God!” Verlina Jarrell, of Circleville, Ohio, co-administrator of a Facebook page about the “Pike County massacres” with some 650 members, told The Associated Press.

The victims were 40-year-old Christopher Rhoden; his ex-wife, 37-year-old Dana Rhoden; their three children, 20-year-old Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 16-year-old Christopher Jr., and 19-year-old Hanna; Frankie Rhoden’s fiancée, 20-year-old Hannah Gilley; Christopher Rhoden Sr.’s brother, 44-year-old Kenneth Rhoden; and a cousin, 38-year-old Gary Rhoden. Hanna Rhoden’s days-old baby girl, another baby and a young child were unharmed.

Authorities said marijuana growing operations were found at three of the four crime scenes. While that’s not uncommon in this corner of Appalachia, it stoked rumors that the slayings were drug-related.

DeWine said “there’s an undercurrent of drugs” in the case, but there’s no evidence the killings were related to drugs. He wouldn’t elaborate.

Police in Kentucky say the FBI tracked “Billy” Wagner to Lexington, where he was arrested without incident at around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday. Lexington police weren’t sure if he had been living in the area.

The mothers of Angela Wagner and “Billy” Wagner also were arrested in Ohio and charged with misleading investigators.

Jake Wagner was also charged with unlawful sexual conduct with a minor for having sexual contact with Rhoden when she was 15 years old and he was 20 years old, DeWine’s office said.


Welsh-Huggins reported from Columbus. Associated Press Writers John Seewer in Toledo and Dylan T. Lovan in Louisville, Kentucky, contributed to this report.

Read More

Before a Deal, Amazon Had to Know: Could Cuomo and De Blasio Get Along?

By January, Amazon narrowed the list to 20 locations, including New York. Amazon visited in April, July and September, said a person familiar with the meetings. The executives narrowed their search to sites on the West Side of Manhattan and in Long Island City before finally settling on the Queens neighborhood.

Mr. Carney said Mr. Bezos did not tour any of the sites. The process was run by Holly Sullivan, who leads the company’s worldwide economic development. John Schoettler, the executive who oversees Amazon’s real estate, negotiated with the private developers.

During one visit, the Amazon executives visited the Cornell Tech campus, a new high-tech school on Roosevelt Island, and took the ferry from there to Long Island City. They rode Citi Bikes as city officials and local Queens representatives showed off the area. On another occasion, they took the ferry at sunset.

It wasn’t until the past few weeks that things really took off.

Gov. Cuomo met Amazon executives, including Jeff Wilke, who runs the company’s retail business, in his offices on Third Avenue. From the window, he said, they could see the site along the waterfront Amazon would eventually select.

“I showed them the pictures of the progress of LaGuardia, of J.F.K., Penn Station, Kosciuszko Bridge — I explained what doubling the span means,” he said, referring to building projects. He said Amazon executives were interested in having a pipeline of educated employees, not just from the top universities, but from other places such as Queens College and the nearby LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City.

Amazon expressed concern about the city’s planning process, which is slow and allows for local officials and the City Council to veto projects. The company’s lawyers appeared to know about those pitfalls and wanted to avoid them. So Mr. de Blasio and Mr. Cuomo agreed to let the state control the approval, meaning there could be local input but no local veto. Mr. Cuomo said it was a “friendly condemnation” of the city-controlled land by the state, not a source of tension.

Though the mayor and governor met separately with Amazon, they were in close contact, comparing notes and strategizing over the phone, according to a person briefed on the talks.

Read More

Election Night in America Continued

It’s been a week since the 2018 election. And while there are 10 House races — and a Senate race (hello, Florida?) — still not called, we now have a very good sense of who voted, why they voted and what it tells us about the electorate both now and moving forward.

We have that sense because of the exit poll, a survey taken of almost 18,000 voters after they cast their ballots on Election Day. (For an explanation of exit polling and why it’s so useful in understanding voters, check this out.)

Below are 3 takeaways from the national House exit poll. You can see 12 more here.

1. Republicans have an age problem: In the national House exit poll, Republicans got crushed among young people — taking just 32% as compared to 67% for Democrats among those aged 18 to 29. But it’s more than just the youngest segment of the electorate where Republicans are struggling. Among voters aged 18-44 — at 42 years old myself, I’d say that includes people who are no spring chickens — Democrats took 61%, while Republicans got just 36%.

2. White women are swing votes: One of President Donald Trump’s saving graces in the 2016 election was white women, who made up 37% of the electorate and voted for him over Hillary Clinton by 9 points. In Tuesday’s election, white women again made up 37% of the electorate, but this time they split their votes: 49% for Democrats, 49% for Republicans.

3. More people (still) identify as Democrats: Asked what party they identify with by exit pollsters, 37% said Democrats, 33% said Republicans and 30% called themselves independents. Those numbers were very similar to where party ID was in 2016: 36% Democratic, 33% Republican and 31% independent.

Read More

A Left-Flank Protest on Day 1 Signals a Democratic House Divided

Senior lawmakers who are eager to rise up the leadership ranks use orientation for another reason: to court and count votes.

Ms. Pelosi, who already made history as the first female speaker, now hopes to return to that job. On Tuesday, she courted hard during an event she hosted at Osteria Morini, an upscale Italian restaurant on Washington’s newly redeveloped waterfront. Behind its glass windows, she could be seen entertaining a mix of incoming and incumbent representatives, who chatted over drinks and hors d’oeuvres and posed for pictures with one another.

The event, one of several on Tuesday, was also an opportunity for other representatives to formally meet their new colleagues.

“Max, proud of you, bro,” Representative Charlie Crist of Florida yelled outside the restaurant as he spotted Max Rose, who pulled off an upset on Election Day on New York’s Staten Island. “Proud of you.”

“I couldn’t be more excited to see you,” Mr. Rose said, beaming as the pair embraced in the cold.

Though Ms. Pelosi reached out with congratulatory calls and has begun meeting with some of the incoming members, her reception offered an opportunity for several of the new representatives to meet her in person. Many have yet to fully endorse Ms. Pelosi’s bid to reclaim the speaker’s gavel.

“Oh, gosh, I haven’t decided,” said Dr. Kim Schrier, who flipped a Seattle-area district long held by Representative Dave Reichert, who is retiring. “I’m just getting my sea legs.”

But one Washington veteran, Donna Shalala, the newly elected congresswoman from South Florida, did not hesitate to offer her endorsement.

Read More

Retired Gen. John Abizaid Picked as Ambassador to Saudi Arabia

WASHINGTON—President Trump on Tuesday nominated retired four-star Army Gen. John Abizaid, who oversaw U.S. Central Command during the initial years of the Iraq War, to be ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

U.S.-Saudi ties have been strained by the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which the kingdom has admitted. Mr. Trump has not yet decided on what retaliatory action to take and faces pressure from Congress and the government of Turkey. Khashoggi was killed Oct. 2 in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and Turkish officials…

Read More