An unarmed 19-year-old man was shot and killed by police in Madison, Wisconsin, “following an altercation,” the Wisconsin State Journal reports.
Tony Robinson was shot March 6 by Officer Matt Kenny.
1. Police Were Responding to a Disturbance
Madison Police Chief Mike Koval said at a news conference that an officer responded to 911 calls reporting a “subject” who was “jumping in and out of traffic, dodging cars and the like.” that had been responsible for a battery. Koval said the first responding officer, later identified as Officer Matt Kenny, was called to an apartment where the subject had gone. When Kenny got to the apartment, he said he heard what sounded like a disturbance inside and forced entry.
Koval said once Kenny went inside the apartment, the victim “assaulted my officer and in the context of mutual combat, the officer did draw his revolver and subsequently shot the subject.”
Kenny began to give Robinson CPR and was joined in aiding him by backup officers, Koval told reporters. Robinson was taken to a local hospital, where he died.
Koval said Kenny had been knocked down by a blow to the head. Koval was asked by a reporter if the victim was armed, and responded, “At this time it is unknown what, if anything, he had at the scene in terms of instrumentality. Initial findings at the scene did not reflect a gun or anything like that at the scene.”
On Saturday, Koval confirmed that Robinson was unarmed. He said, “We have to be clear about this. He was unarmed. That’s going to make this all the more complicated for the investigators, the public, to accept, to understand … why deadly force had to be used,” according to CNN.
Police were called to the Williamson Street incident at about 6:30 p.m. Audio from police radio transmissions has been posted online.
In the audio, the dispatcher tells the responding officer that a teen named Tony Robinson was “outside yelling and jumping in between cars.” The dispatcher says “Tony hit one of his friends” and “no weapons” were seen.
At 2:50 after the initial call, one of the officers says he is in an upstairs apartment. At the 3:09 mark of the audio, the officer says “shots fired, shots fired.” An ambulance is then called to the scene.
2.Robinson Was a Recent High School Graduate About to Attend College
Michael Johnson, president of the local Boys & Girls Club, said on Facebook that Robinson had recently graduated from high school and was set to attend a technical school. Johnson, who spoke with the family, said Robinson graduated from Sun Prarie High School and was headed to the Madison Area Technical College, where he wanted to get a business degree.
“He was loving and caring young man according to his grandmother,” Johnson said in the Facebook post.
But Robinson did have a criminal history. He pleaded guilty to armed robbery, a felony, in October 2014, according to state court records. He was sentenced to 120 days in jail, which was stayed by the judge, and three years of probation. He was arrested along with four others in April 2014 after a home invasion in Madison, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. Police said at the time that the group was seen entering an apartment, one armed with a shotgun. They stole electronics and other property.
Robinson’s social media use, including his Facebook page and Twitter account have been scrutinized after the shooting. And on Monday, the Associated Press reported court documents show Robinson suffered from ADHD, anxiety and depression. The documents claimed Robinson tended to be anti-social and a risk-taker, according to the AP,
Tony was also known by his middle name, Terrell, according to posts by his family. Robinson’s grandmother, Sharon Irwin, said on Facebook:
To u officer, who shot my unarmed grandson 5 times, who was running away from u while u were pulling out your gun and chasing him, where was your taser. I want u to know the young man u killed was gentle loving great kid. U took away the day he turned 35. U took away my great grandkids. This, what they call a wrongful death. This what I call murder.
Robinson’s mother, Andrea Irwin talked Saturday morning to WKOW and said, “My son has never been a violent person. And to die in such a violent, violent way, it baffles me.”
A 16-year-old friend of Robinson, Samantha Sorum, told the Badger Herald “he was going places.”
Family members of the victim spoke at the scene:
3. Protesters Have Gathered in Madison
Johnson said on Facebook “The family has asked for peaceful protest. The mother has asked that her son not be dehumanized by local authorities.”
Madison Police Chief Koval said at a news conference, “In light of so much things that have happened, not just across the country, but in our own community, it’s understandable that the reaction seen from our citizens is extremely volatile, emotional and upsetting, and we understand that.”
He urged everybody to “exercise restraint and remain calm,” while the shooting is investigated. Koval said, “I don’t know that if at the end of the day anyone benefits from anger and resentment when we don’t know all the facts. We can certainly grieve a young man’s life, but I don’t know if grief is benefited by scorn, threats of violence.”
Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, who went to city hall where protesters had gathered, told WKOW, “We’ve got a family that’s really hurting. And we’ve got a city and neighborhood that’s feeling pretty well hurt itself.”
Young, Gifted and Black, a Madison-based group, responded to the shooting in a Facebook statement:
Tonight an unarmed 19-year old Black teenager, Anthony Robinson was shot 5 times in the chest and killed by the Madison Police Department. Reports between the police and the youth’s friends differ, but it is clear he was unarmed. Few details are currently known, but this police murder is in the same vein as what happened to Michael Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in New York, and Dontre Hamilton in Milwaukee. Given the racial disparities in Madison, we have known our city is no different.
Images and video from Madison were quickly spread on social media:
4. The Officer Has Been With the Department Since 2002
Kenny has been with the department since 2002, prior to which he was an active service officer in the U.S. Coast Guard for nine years, according to his profile on the Madison Police Department website
Kenny was taken to the hospital, but was not seriously injured. The police chief said a blood test was taken to determine the officer’s sobriety.
The shooting was investigated by an outside agency, the Wisconsin Department of Criminal Investigation, per state law. Kenny had been placed on administrative leave.
5. There Were 2 Fatal Police Shootings in Madison Last Year
Two people were shot and killed by police officers in Madison in 2014, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. This is the first fatal police-involved shooting in Madison this year.
On May 18, 26-year-old Ashley DiPiazza was fatally shot after police were called to a domestic disturbance. Police said DiPiazza walked toward officers holding a gun to her head and was shot after failing to comply with their commands. On May 2, Londrell Johnson, 33, was killed after he fatally stabbed two women and charged at officers with a knife, according to reports. Officers were cleared of wrongdoing in both cases.
The department was sued and the Justice Department investigated after a 2012 police-involved shooting. Paul Heenan, 30, who was unarmed, was killed after mistakenly entering a neighbor’s home while drunk. According to WisconsinWatch.org, the neighbor tried to tell police that she knew the victim. The officer said he shot Heenan because he thought he was reaching for a gun. The officer wasn’t charged.
Heenan’s father lobbied the legislature for a since-passed law that would require outside investigators to investigate all fatal police shootings. Heenan told lawmakers that Madison police’s “wagons were circled,” after the shooting, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.
“We feel there was not a good investigation done,” John Heenan said at a 2013 hearing. “We feel things were covered up”
The law went into effect in 2014. There were nine fatal police-involved shootings statewide last year, including the three in Madison, according to Wisconsin Public Radio. Investigators found lethal force to be justified in all nine shootings and no charges were filed.
Madison State Rep. Chris Taylor, who co-authored the bill, said on Facebook that she was in the area Friday night at the time Robinson was shot:
Earlier this evening I pulled into the gas station on Williamson Street, simultaneously there were some incidents across the street that resulted in an officer-involved shooting. It was an unspeakable tragedy. I’m heartbroken for everyone involved and for my community. I’ve been informed that the Department of Justice’s division of criminal investigation is on its way to the scene.