For­mer friends in El­gin shocked that North Side in­ci­dent ended fa­tally


Daily Her­ald

When Michele Robey’s for­mer friends in El­gin heard she was shot and killed by Chicago Po­lice, they were shocked.

They re­mem­bered her as a car­ing per­son ded­i­cated to help­ing oth­ers. She re­ceived an El­gin Im­age Award in 2008, an honor re­served for peo­ple who make ex­cep­tional con­tri­bu­tions to the city.

Chicago Po­lice said Robey lunged at of­fi­cers with a knife be­fore she was hit with a Taser and shot Feb. 10, but that didn’t jibe with the Michele Robey she knew, said Gail Co­hen of El­gin.

“I couldn’t be­lieve it when I saw it on the news,” she said.

“She al­ways had a heart for serv­ing, and for oth­ers,” said an­other friend, Re­nee Ed­sall of El­gin.

Robey, 55, was shot by of­fi­cers at a bus stop near a North Side CVS after store em­ploy­ees called po­lice to say she had threat­ened them.

It was the tragic end to seven dif­fi­cult years that be­gan when Robey started to show signs of late- on­set men­tal ill­ness, said her sis­ter Anas­ta­sia “Stacey” Robey of Chicago. Her most re­cent di­ag­no­sis was “bipo­lar with schizoaf­fec­tive dis­or­der,” her sis­ter said.

“When she was on her med­i­ca­tion and sta­bi­lized, it would be like she would be her nor­mal, old self. But from time to time she would not take her meds,” Stacey Robey said. “[ Her death] has not been easy. It has been a shock beyond any­thing you could ever imag­ine.”

Michele Robey lived in El­gin, where she raised her now 20- yearold son, for nearly a decade un­til 2011 or 2012, her sis­ter said.

Re­cently, she’d been talk­ing about mov­ing back to El­gin, she said. “She loved it there. She re­ally did.”

Michele Robey’s life ran a nor­mal course for a long time. She grew up in a tight- knit Chicago fam­ily and earned an un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree from City Col­leges of Chicago and a master’s de­gree in psy­chol­ogy from Na­tional Louis Univer­sity in 2009, Stacey Robey said.

She worked as a re­gional co­or­di­na­tor at Hek­toen In­sti­tute of Medicine in Chicago to fos­ter rapid HIV test­ing for preg­nant women in hos­pi­tals, and she once pre­sented at a con­fer­ence in South Africa.

“She had a great sense of hu­mor. She was bright, com­pas­sion­ate, lov­ing,” Stacey Robey said. “She was a great hu­man­i­tar­ian.”

Her El­gin friends agreed, de­scrib­ing her as lively and quirky, in a good way.

“She was very gen­er­ous and al­ways had big ideas,” said Co­hen, El­gin’s hu­man re­sources di­rec­tor, who nom­i­nated her for the city award. “She wanted to solve world hunger.”

Robey bought and did much of the re­hab work her­self on three homes, in­clud­ing one on Franklin Av­enue she wanted to turn into a space for the home­less, Co­hen said. She also was ac­tive at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in El­gin, and she vol­un­teered for soup kitchens and home­less shel­ters, Ed­sall said.

Robey’s for­mer boss at Hek­toen, Mardge Co­hen, said she was en­er­getic and mis­sion- driven, and felt a duty to take care of peo­ple.

“She would think of very cre­ative ways to en­gage hospi­tal staff to make sure the pro­gram would work,” Mardge Co­hen said. “And she was very, very attentive to pa­tients’ needs.”

Things started to change after Robey earned her master’s de­gree and then lost her job at Hek­toen In­sti­tute when grant fund­ing ran out in 2010, Stacey Robey said.

She lived off sav­ings while fo­cus­ing on her home re­hab work in El­gin, but “signs of things not be­ing right with her” started to man­i­fest, her sis­ter said. She­was hos­pi­tal­ized in El­gin the first time around 2011, the first of “many” hos­pi­tal­iza­tions, Stacey Robey said.

The last time Ed­sall saw her was around 2011, when Robey, al­most fran­tic, called her ask­ing for im­me­di­ate help in de­liv­er­ing pork chops she had cooked for the home­less. Ed­sall did so, and then she never heard from her again.

“Af­ter­ward I called nu­mer­ous times to make sure it all went OK,” Ed­sall said. “That’s the last time I talked to her.”

Robey moved to Chicago, where she briefly worked part time at a women’s shel­ter, her sis­ter said. She filed for bank­ruptcy, lost her El­gin homes and went on dis­abil­ity.

Last year, she­was charged in Chicago with pos­ses­sion of a con­trolled sub­stance and re­tail theft. She was sen­tenced to drug school, and all charges were later dis­missed.

Stacey Robey said she last saw her sis­ter 12 days be­fore the Feb. 10 shoot­ing. “She was not in good shape,” she said.

She de­clined to com­ment fur­ther, say­ing the fam­ily plans to file a law­suit against the city of Chicago. She did say she be­lieves her sis­ter was hav­ing a psy­chotic break that made her para­noid and afraid on the day she was killed.

Jose Estrada, Chicago Po­lice pub­lic in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer, de­clined to com­ment, cit­ing the po­ten­tial lit­i­ga­tion. The shoot­ing is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion by Chicago’s In­de­pen­dent Po­lice Re­view Au­thor­ity, and the Cook County med­i­cal ex­am­iner hasn’t fi­nal­ized the case yet, of­fi­cials said.

Michele Robey’s fam­ily still is reel­ing, as are those who knew her dur­ing bet­ter days in El­gin. “It’s still hard to be­lieve,” Gail Co­hen said.

“She was an amaz­ing hu­man be­ing,” Stacey Robey said. “Fam­ily mem­bers al­ways say that, but she re­ally was.”


ABOVE: Michele Robey in a photo she posted on her Face­book page in 2013. BE­LOW: Michele Robey­was fa­tally shot by Chicago Po­lice on Feb. 10 at Irv­ing Park Road andWestern Av­enue after she re­port­edly lunged at of­fi­cers with a knife.

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