Shooting Death of Unarmed Teen in Wis. Leads to Protests; Police Chief Apologizes

By Sheryl Estrada


Tony Robinson

Friday’s shooting death of 19-year-old unarmed Black male Tony Robinson by Madison (Wis.) Police Officer Matt Kenny has resulted in ongoing protests in the city, prompting Chief of Police Michael C. Koval to issue an apology.

On Monday in his official blog, Koval addressed the Madison community:

“I begin this blog with this thought hanging heavy in my heart,” he wrote. “Our community is grieving and hurting over the loss of a young African-American man, whose life was ended far too soon. Reconciliation cannot begin without my stating ‘I am sorry,’ and I don’t think I can say this enough. I am sorry. I hope that, with time, Tony’s family and friends can search their hearts to render some measure of forgiveness. Certainly, this will not take place soon given the circumstances. It may take some time for this loop to close but I pray that it will, in fact, close.”

Kenny responded to reports of a man jumping in and out of traffic, who had assaulted someone and was responsible for a battery recently committed. According to Koval, Kenny followed Robinson to an apartment and forced his way inside after hearing a disturbance. Koval said Robinson assaulted the officer, who then shot him. Kenny began to immediately provide CPR. Robinson later died at the hospital.

Extensive details have not been disclosed as the state Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation conducts an independent probe into the shooting. Last year, Wisconsin instituted a lawrequiring an outside agency to investigate everyofficer-related death.

Student Protests

In response to another police shooting of an unarmed young Black malereminders of the deaths of Tamir Rice in Ohio and Michael Brown in Missouriprotests began FridayandSaturday in Madison and continued Monday at Madison City Hall.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports a group of about 1,500 many of them students, diverse yet predominatelyBlack, came from Sun Prairie High School, from which Robinson graduated last spring, and all four traditional Madison high schools. Protesters also included middle-school and college students.

Students chanted, “What’s his name Tony Robinson!” and, “I believe that we will win.”

Madison School District officials supported the student rally. They asked community leaders to go to the Capitol to ensure their safety.

“In general, we thought it was important that if students chose to demonstrate, that we ensure they are safe and provide positive adult presence to support our students as they express their concerns, grief and questions,” said district spokeswoman Rachel Strauch-Nelson.

There were also protests on Tuesday, however crowds were smaller. Paul Soglin, the Mayor of Madison, has noted the demonstrations have remained peaceful.

“We’re very pleased as to what has happened and how the demonstrations have gone to date,” said Soglin.

Robinson’s and Kenny’s Pasts

In April 2014, Robinson was one of five people who staged a home-invasion robbery in Madison. He was convicted of armed robbery and in December was sentenced to three years of probation by Judge Josann Reynolds.

The Associated Press reports court documents connected to the caseindicated Robinson was diagnosed with depression and anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). He was also susceptible to anger and boredom.

A letter from his grandmother to Reynolds was included in the case file asking her to reduce his sentence.

“He didn’t want to go yet did it anyway,” she wrote. “That is one of his issues. Impulsive. The other is being a follower.”

His attorney, Michael J. Short, wrote in a memo to Judge Reynolds seeking a shorter probation term that Robinson had taken special-education classes.

“He was an easy choice for the seasoned co-defendants to manipulate into participation,” Short wrote.

Kenny has been placed on administrative leave. This isn’t the first time the actions of the 12-year police officer have been under investigation.

On July 15, 2007, Kenny was one of three officers who responded to a call of a “man with a gun” threatening neighbors, which resulted in the killing of 48-year-old Ronald Brandon. According to WMTV, police say Brandon called 911, gave a description of himself as the perpetrator and waited for the officers on his front steps. When they arrived, police say Brandon pointed a gun, later identified as a pellet gun, and an officer shot him. He died of his injuries at the hospital. Koval said it was a case of “suicide by cop.”

“We cannot know precisely what Mr. Brandon was thinking, but his pointing a very realistic-looking facsimile firearm at police effectively compelled officers to resort to deadly force,” Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard said in a statement.

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