Jefferson, LA – On November 4, Jefferson Parish resident Arleen Robertson, mother of police murder victim Daviri Robertson, will speak out at a community forum at Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church. Robertson is fighting to appeal the qualified immunity of the police officer who murdered her son. Fight Back! spoke with Ms. Robertson to share her story.
In March of 2019, five officers from Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s department murdered two Black men, Daviri Robertson and Chris Joseph, after barricading them in an IHOP parking lot. Despite the two being unarmed, the department claims they had credible reason to open fire on their vehicle. There is no dash or bodycam footage to substantiate their claim, and, in March of this year, a panel of judges ruled the available footage dubious, at best. Of the two officers reported injured, one refused medical treatment, while the other was hit by friendly fire.
Robertson recounts, “Michael Charles Wibbles is that deputy that was said fired six times into the driver’s side window. Detective Benjamin Michael Jones was supposedly struck or pinned between Chris’ car and the F150 that blocked the car in from behind. Detective Carmouche and Deputy Wibbles rode together but Detective Carmouche shot approximately 11 times into the car. Detective Allen Rolando Doubleday and Detective Ben Jones rode together and blocked the car in from behind.”
Immediately after the murders, community and family members came forward with serious concerns about the shooting. They publicly condemned the sheriff’s department for using excessive and deadly force. They also sought damages from the city and organized protests to bring attention to their case. On July 27 the officers were granted qualified immunity, a process that Ms. Robertson is currently in the process of appealing. She is also currently seeking an attorney that is licensed to serve on a Supreme Court case.
The doctrine of qualified immunity, as defined by the National Conference of State Legislatures, “protects state and local officials, including law enforcement officers, from individual liability unless the official violated a clearly established constitutional right.” Legal rights have described this doctrine as “unreasonable and deeply stringent” because it requires the victims of misconduct to track down a nearly identical case of unconstitutional police conduct. Dozens of state legislators throughout the country have unsuccessfully tried to undo qualified immunity statutes. In Louisiana, the doctrine is almost exclusively used by police officers to dodge accountability for civil rights violations.
Arleen Robertson remembered her son as a charismatic and driven person. He was well liked, had a lot of friends (and girlfriends), and was known for his great sense of humor. He was athletic and earned a reputation as a skilled baseball player. Deeply entrepreneurial, Daviri operated a horticultural and power washing business named “Bops”, a play on the nickname his mother gave him, “Bebop”. And to further supplement his income, he traveled throughout the South to buy used vehicles and sell them for a profit. A discussion about a used truck was the last conversation Ms. Robertson had with her son. “I had just texted him a nice truck the morning he got killed. I noticed he didn’t respond that night, because he usually always responds. That next morning I learned that Bebop got shot and I just started screaming and such.”
Robertson fears that Daviri’s name has been forgotten. She detailed feeling frustrated and alone in her battle. “It’s just been a ride for me and it frustrates me when I’m at my church and the pastor brings up George Floyd or Breonna Taylor; I’ll be sitting in church and, like, I’m sitting right here and nobody’s trying to help me!” and said, “Our story is getting swept under the rug.”
Faced with a number of legal stumbling blocks – the court’s unwillingness to move forward without new evidence, and the aforementioned qualified immunity ruling – Robertson continues her fight for justice. She has been organizing closely with the Worker’s Voice Socialist Movement and Building Bridges, an advocacy group for families who have lost loved ones to racist policing. She has reached out to the Southern Poverty Law Center, to limited success. On September 21, she traveled to Washington DC with Building Bridges and other families impacted by state violence to demand an end to qualified immunity. New Orleans for Community Oversight of Police (NOCOP) is joining her call for justice.
Ms. Robertson has a number of requests to the public. First, she is in search of an attorney, specifically one licensed to serve on a supreme court case. Second, she asks that everyone watch the documentary The Daviri Robertson Story, produced by the advocacy group Speak That! Movement, available on Youtube [linked at the bottom]. She also asked that people consider donating to the family’s GoFundMe [also linked below]. Her family believes that Daviri’s story can spark a change in the racist and corrupt policing in Jefferson Parish. Ultimately, they want their story, their voice, and their demands heard by as many people as will listen.
It was clear that Robertson doesn’t plan on giving up her pursuit for justice. She is determined to bring attention to her son’s case and an end to the practice of qualified immunity. Like so many past and current activists, she is working to create a more just and compassionate world. “I’m fighting for this so that they are reprimanded for what they did, accountable for what they did, if they don’t wanna give me money, that’s fine with me.”
“I just want them to get what they deserve for doing it,” Ms. Robertson said.
The Daviri Robertson Story Youtube link here.
Justice for Daviri Robertson GoFundMe link here.