Updated Oct. 9, 2:15 p.m. EDT: Jack Lamar Roberson's family has taken the first step toward legal action in the fatal shooting of the allegedly suicidal man and have been in contact with an attorney, although no formal arrangements have been made, The Root has learned.
It may be a long battle, with both sides sticking adamantly to their story. Roberson's family insist he did nothing wrong and was simply having a bad diabetic episode while the police are saying that they were being threatened.
According to the Waycross Police Department Incident Report by an officer who arrived later on the scene, Roberson had a two-prong meat fork and another "black-handled kitchen utensil" near his head. The utensil was not idendtifed fully since it was partially hidden by a shoe. The officer also observed a broken chair.
The report reiterated the story the police have maintained, which is that Roberson approached the officers in a "threatening manner" before "lunging" toward them, which resulted in the officers firing their weapons "to protect themselves" and ultimately killing Roberson. Roberson's family denied this account, saying the man was unarmed when he was killed.
(The Root) — Another day, another controversial incident between police and a black man shot and killed by them.
This time, in Waycross, Ga., the family of Jack Lamar Roberson say they witnessed cops shoot him while he was unarmed with his hands up, while the police say he was brandishing two weapons.
On Friday, Oct. 4, Alicia Herron, Roberson's fiancee, called 911 out of fear that he was suicidal after taking medication for his diabetes. "I thought he might have taken too much," she told the Florida Times-Union. She asked for an ambulance, but instead two officers arrived at the residence where Roberson was with Herron; their 8-year-old daughter, Zophia Roberson; and Jack's mother, Diane Roberson. The Waycross Police Department say they showed up when they received a report that there was an attempted suicide and that Roberson was becoming combative, according to First Coast News.
What happened next is where both sides have two starkly different stories.
Waycross Police Chief Tony Tanner said that Roberson lunged at the officer with two objects he described as weapons and that Roberson ignored the police's request to drop the items. According to a statement, via the Florida Times-Union:
The officers retreated as Roberson gained ground on them and raised one of the “weapons in a threatening manner,’’ whereupon the officers fired to prevent their being assaulted, Tanner said.
Waycross Mayor Clarence Billups said he was given a similar story but could not confirm if the items in Roberson's hand were knives.
Diane Roberson says the police are lying. "If you're any type of man, you'll come to me and you'll tell me why you stood up there and told a lie. Two knives, we don't own two decent knives," she told First Coast News. Herron also said her fiance had no weapons on him when officers arrived and that he kept his hands up.
According to the Athens Banner-Herald, the two officers involved in the shooting have been put on administrative leave pending an investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigations. The investigation was called for immediately after the incident.
Jozen Cummings is the author and creator of the popular relationship blog Until I Get Married, which is currently in development for a television series with Warner Bros. He also hosts a weekly podcast with WNYC about Empire called Empire Afterparty, is a contributor at VerySmartBrothas.com and works at Twitter as an editorial curator. Follow him on Twitter.