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‘They Would Say… It’s Freedom of Speech’: Illinois Man Who Shot Neighbor Reportedly Taunted Black Sons with Racist Threats for Years While Cops Did Nothing

An Illinois man was charged with a hate crime, attempted murder, and other charges after he allegedly shot his white neighbor in what deputies believe was a racist incident.

Authorities charged 70-year-old John P. Shadbar with attempted first-degree murder, aggravated battery with a firearm, unlawful use of a weapon by a felon, and a hate crime.

John Shadbar, 70, (left) was charged with attempted murder and a hate crime after allegedly shooting his neighbor Melissa Robertson (right), who has two Black sons. (Photos: Wil County Sheriff’s Office, GoFundMe)

In a Facebook post, the Will County Sheriff’s Office stated that Shadbar was taken into custody on May 7 after barricading himself inside his home.

Deputies were first called to 144th Place and Rickerman Road in Unincorporated Lockport Township that afternoon for a shots fired complaint.

Witnesses told authorities that Shadbar fired dozens of shots at his neighbor with an assault-style rifle while they were outside and then started walking around his property, still armed.

A reverse 911 call was placed to residents in the area, warning them to shelter in place. When police and first responders got to the scene, they found the victim and rushed her to a nearby hospital in critical condition.

At that point, Shadbar had barricaded himself inside his home. After a crisis negotiator got him on the phone, he surrendered himself to authorities. He made “several incriminating statements” while talking with the negotiator, according to the sheriff’s office.

The victim, who family members identified as 45-year-old Melissa Robertson, was shot in the chest and hand. Deputies reported that she underwent surgery and is recovering from her wounds.

“She is fighting for her life right now over hate … over hate,” her sister Theresa Robertson-Proano told NBC Chicago.

Robertson’s family told NBC Chicago that Shadbar had been racially hostile toward them since they moved to the neighborhood 10 years ago.

Robertson, who is white, has two Black sons. Family members said Shadbar would fire his gun and throw fireworks into their yard regularly.

“Dead N-words, N-word this, N-word lover. Called me the N-word straight to my face. My mom made him apologize, a few days later he comes out holding a gun in his underwear,” Mikeal Johnson, Robertson’s son, said to the local outlet.

The family said they had called police numerous times about the racist harassment to no avail. It wasn’t until the shooting that things came to a head.

“They would say unfortunately as wrong and hateful as it is, it’s freedom of speech and nothing they can do,” Johnson said. “This did not need to happen at all. Not just our lives, but his life and his wife’s and our neighbors are all affected by it.”

“Why did he have no consequences? It was not a one-time thing. He has been doing this for years,” Robertson’s aunt, Jeanne Beyer, said.

Investigators seized several weapons from Shadbar’s home along with hundreds of rounds of ammunition. The shooting was also caught on home surveillance videos from multiple neighbors’ homes.

A GoFundMe was launched to help pay for Robertson’s medical expenses. As of May 13, it’s raised nearly $11,000 of its $75,000 goal. Robertson’s niece Natalie Beyer, who started the online fundraiser, said since the story began to spread, the gunman’s wife has lost her rank of sergeant with the Cook County Department of Corrections and is being investigated. 

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