- In 2016, Jamarion Robinson was killed by police officers who were executing a warrant.
- His mother, Monteria Robinson, told Insider that her son had been diagnosed with schizophrenia months earlier and was in a crisis.
- One night she woke up to her son pouring gasoline in her home, and she called 911. Her son ran. When a task force of officers found him weeks later, they shot him more than 50 times.
- Monteria is one of five mothers who shared stories with Insider about losing their sons to police shootings. You can read the other stories in the six-part series here.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Jamarion Robinson’s family lovingly called him “Daddy Daycare” because he was the go-to babysitter for his little cousins.
In college, he studied political science and wanted to pursue a career in football. He also looked forward to being a dad, his mother, Monteria Robinson, told Insider.
Jamarion, who had schizophrenia, was shot and killed by police officers on August 5, 2016, weeks after his mother called 911 because he had poured gasoline in the hallway of her home while she slept. He was 26.
“It’s devastated us. It’s like our hearts are broken,” Robinson said, choking back tears. “He was our first baby and first grandchild. For all my sisters and brothers, he was like all of our baby. Nobody slept for months. Nobody ate for weeks.”
In the months before his death, Jamarion’s mental health deteriorated.
He was diagnosed with schizophrenia in December 2015, and by the spring he had grown so paranoid that Robinson worried about his safety.
He wasn’t acting like himself, she said, and was sleeping in closets and small spaces. One day he threw her car keys into the woods, which Robinson thought was bizarre. He was increasingly afraid of the police, would become skittish if he saw a police cruiser, and spoke a lot about Black men dying at the hands of law enforcement.
Robinson called a mental-health crisis line in June, seeking guidance.
“They kept saying ‘maybe he’s used to that,'” Robinson said. “My son never had to sleep inside a closet or a bathroom.”
By the next month, Jamarion’s mental health was at its nadir. One night Robinson woke up to the smell of gasoline in her house.
“I called 911 and told them that my son is here with a friend, and my son does suffer from mental illness, and I smell strong gas,” she said. “I got up and then called my son’s name.”
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Robinson told Insider she never feared for her life but knew this was a sign that Jamarion was at a breaking point. She thought the call to 911 would result in the help he needed.
Robinson called out to her son but got no reply. Jamarion’s friend came into the hallway where the gas had been poured. Jamarion pushed by him, running away before the police arrived.
The police “were saying he was trying to kill me by pouring gas,” Robinson said.
She didn’t believe it. She said she stored gallons of gasoline in her garage because her son’s motorcycle didn’t register when it was low on gas and he would often run out on the side of the road; she would bring it to him.
Robinson has speculated that her son, who was known to sleepwalk, was dreaming about running out of gas.
“Maybe he thought he was pumping gas,” she said.
What the police say happened differs from the evidence reviewed by a private investigator
The Atlanta Police Department also had a warrant out for his arrest. He had recently pulled a gun on two officers who were responding to a call from a woman who said he wouldn’t let her out of the laundry room of an apartment complex, an investigative report later said.
The US Marshals Service, a part of the Department of Justice, got involved. It activated a task force to apprehend Jamarion.
The task force tracked Jamarion to an apartment in suburban Atlanta where he was staying with his girlfriend. On August 5, armed with a variety of guns and tactical gear, officers knocked on the door before breaching it, investigations by the Marshals Service and a private investigator hired by Jamarion’s family found.
The officers ended up firing at him 59 times. He had 76 bullet wounds.
Authorities told local news outlets in the days after the shooting that Jamarion had fired at the officers, prompting them to fire back.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which was asked to review the case, found that Jamarion had attempted to fire at the officers but that the weapon jammed.
The Marshals Service’s report said the officers fired at Jamarion after he appeared to raise a handgun in their direction. Once he “was no longer a threat to the officers, he was taken into custody,” the report said. It added that a medic “attempted life saving measures” but that Jamarion was pronounced dead at the scene.
Knowing that her son had more than 70 bullet holes in him by the time he was turned over to the medical examiner, Monteria Robinson was dissatisfied with the authorities’ account of what happened to Jamarion.
She hired a private investigator, Roy Bedard, an expert in policing and police training, to look into what happened.
This April, Bedard completed his investigation, and his findings disputed the Marshals Service’s report.
Similar to the GBI’s findings, Bedard’s report said the officers had busted through the front door and spotted Jamarion standing on a landing above the stairs. They believed he had a handgun at his side.
One of the officers said he started firing when he thought he saw Jamarion raising the handgun, the report said.
Bedard said the evidence he reviewed indicated that three of the officers continued firing weapons â€” a pistol and two “sub-machine guns” â€” for about three minutes, even though Jamarion had fired no shots at the officers.
Bedard’s report said one of the officers threw a flash-bang at Jamarion as he lay on the ground, already mortally wounded.
“Twenty-two seconds after the deflagration of the flashbang, another volley of shots of automatic gunfire was captured on the video/audio recording,” Bedard’s report said. “None of the officers admitted to firing those shots or having any knowledge of who did.”
The officers told the GBI investigators that they crawled up the stairs toward the landing where Jamarion was bleeding on the floor, grabbed his foot, and dragged him to the first floor, where they handcuffed his body.
But an expert medical examiner Bedard contacted said bullet holes found lodged in the landing indicated that someone had stood over Jamarion’s body and fired down at him.
Several task-force members told the GBI that at some point Jamarion fired two or three rounds, but Bedard found no evidence of that. Bedard’s report said that when the handgun that Jamarion was said to be holding was recovered, the magazine was empty, and there were two unfired bullets nearby.
“Robinson did not engage officers in a continuous gunfight. He appeared several times in the landing, then disappeared behind a wall, never once firing a shot at them,” Bedard wrote. He added that “the decision to continuously engage Robinson with the use of deadly force was for the purpose of affecting an arrest rather than personal protection or self-defence.”
The US Marshals Service refused to comment on the case to Insider.
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Monteria Robinson is still fighting to get to the bottom of what happened
When Robinson learned that her son had been killed, she was stricken with grief and immediately questioned the police’s version of what happened.
When family members started arriving, Robinson’s mother â€” Jamarion’s grandmother â€” was inconsolable. She asked the officers why they killed her grandson. They told her they had a warrant for his arrest and showed her a photo, Robinson said.
The photo, though, was of a different man, which made the family question whether the raid was a result of mistaken identity, Robinson said.
In 2018, Robinson filed a federal civil-rights lawsuit against the officers, saying her son was not a threat to them when they began firing. It’s still pending.
In late 2018, Paul Howard, the Fulton County district attorney at the time, also filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department, alleging that it failed to provide information about the case to his office and prevented prosecutors from interviewing officers.
But Howard later withdrew his subpoenas in the “spirit of cooperation,” 11Alive, a local news outlet, reported.
Robinson told Insider that Howard’s decision crushed her family.
There was some hope that a grand jury would hear the case this year, but Robinson said it was delayed because of COVID-19 restrictions.
The district attorney’s investigation into the raid remains open, even though authorities have acted quickly on more recent local police use-of-force cases, Robinson said. The Atlanta officer who killed Rayshard Brooks in June, for example, was charged within a week of his death.
Brooks’ death was captured on police body and dash cameras, as well as in witness mobile phone videos. But the officers who went to arrest Jamarion didn’t record their raid.
“Why would you have me, as the mother, waiting four years?” Robinson said. “It feels like every day I have to wake up, put my tennis shoes on, put my boxing gloves on, and fight.”
Georgia mothers who lost their children to police killings lean on one another
Every time there’s a police killing in the state, Robinson and several other mothers will reach out to the victim’s family. They will assist in setting up social-media pages, connect them with local lawyers, or help in any other way they can. They also attend rallies and protests together.
As of October, the group had memorialised 187 people killed by the police in the state since 2005.
“Our main thing is standing in solidarity,” Robinson said. “We all suffered from the same tragic event. We are part of this unwanted sorority or fraternity that we didn’t ask to be a part of.”
Justice for Georgia has called for the required use of body cameras, mental-health training for all officers, and mandatory and immediate drug and alcohol screenings for every officer involved in an on-duty killing.
Robinson said she regrets calling 911 when her son poured gasoline in her home. She said the call might have put Jamarion on the department’s radar. Before that, his criminal record was limited to traffic violations.
These days, Robinson said, she avoids calling the police at all costs and advises her friends and family to do the same.
Before Jamarion was killed, Robinson was aware of police use-of-force issues and talked about the tragedies with her son. But she thought police violence was something that shattered other families. She believed that the education and career she had worked for kept her household safe.
“I was woke to it. But I have a good job; I make a six-figure income. I never thought it could happen to me,” Robinson said. “I thought it could only happen to the less fortunate people.”
- Read more from this series:
- These mothers called 911 to seek help for their struggling sons. Their children ended up dead.
- Miles Hall’s mother did everything she could to protect her son with schizoaffective disorder. Police still killed him.
- Eric James Andrews was struggling with his mental health. His mother called the police for help, but they shot him dead.
- When her 19-year-old son wasn’t acting like himself, she trusted the police to get him help. Instead, they killed him.
- A police officer said ‘I don’t have time for this’ before shooting an 18-year-old with a mental illness dead in his home, his mother says