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“Justice for Tony:” Vigil in Madison after 19-year-old man shot & killed by police officer after alleged attack

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(CNN/AP) -- Nineteen-year-old Tony Robinson was not armed when a Madison police officer fatally shot him, Police Chief Mike Koval said Saturday. Hundreds gathered for a peaceful vigil in Robinson's honor in Madison Sunday evening, March 8th.

Tony Robinson

Tony Robinson

"We have to be clear about this," Koval said. "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."

The officer who killed Robinson, 12-year department veteran Matt Kenny, had used deadly force before, shooting and killing a man in 2007, the chief said.

Kenny was exonerated of any wrongdoing and even received a commendation, the chief said, adding that the incident was "concluded to be a suicide by cop" situation.

Kenny was responding Friday evening, March 6th to a reported disturbance at a Madison residence when Robinson attacked him, Koval said.

Robinson armed robbery

Robinson had a criminal history, according to the state of Wisconsin public records. Wisconsin Circuit Court documents indicate that Robinson pleaded guilty in December of last year to an armed robbery that occurred April 25, 2014.

Officer Matt Kenny

Officer Matt Kenny

The Madison Police Chief said that Robinson was unarmed at the time of the shooting, but Koval says his officer was assaulted and an investigation is underway. Koval, on Saturday, refused to comment on Robinson's past police criminal history or past interactions.

In a press conference, he stated, "I could but I choose not to. I am not here to do a character workup on someone who lost his life less than 24 hours ago. I frankly think it is, for our purposes today, wholly inappropriate and I am not going to blemish anyone's character particularly someone's as young as his."

But he also said that the public records were available to all.

Responding to call

After the shooting, protesters in the university town took to the streets and converged on City Hall.

Justice for Tony Robinson

Koval called for calm, while acknowledging the protests are reminiscent of those that followed the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York, after confrontations with police.

Tony Robinson was bi-racial. Officer Matt Kenny is white.

"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 at the scene and of some of our citizens is extremely volatile, emotional and upsetting. And we understand that. That's absolutely appropriate under these circumstances. We would urge, obviously, that everyone exercise restraint," Koval said.

madison protest

Visiting family

Koval said he visited the home of Robinson's mother late Friday and met Robinson's grandparents outside the house.

They talked and prayed, the chief said, but they advised him to put off visiting Robinson's mother "based on the dynamics" of the situation.

"I couldn't even begin to get my hands around the enormity of the loss and the tragic consequences," he said. "Nineteen years old is too young."

Robinson's mother, Andrea Irwin, told CNN affiliate WKOW that she didn't understand what happened. "My son has never been a violent person, never," she said. "To die in such a violent way baffles me."

Irwin said Robinson served as a father figure to her other children.

"He was our caretaker and so gentle," she said.

Chief: Young man 'assaulted my officer'

The incident started when authorities got a call that a male was yelling and jumping in front of cars, Koval said. Dispatchers identified him as Robinson, according to 911 audio obtained by WKOW.

A little later the dispatcher says, "Apparently Tony hit one of his friends, um, no weapons seen."

About four minutes later, the dispatcher says, "I got another call for the same suspect at [the same address]. He tried to strangle another patron."

About 30 seconds later, an unidentified officer says, "Shots fired, shots fired."

When Kenny went to the apartment, he heard some commotion and forced his way in, Koval said.

"Once inside the home the subject involved in this incident -- the same one allegedly out in traffic and that had battered someone -- assaulted my officer," Koval said.

After that, according to the chief, "The officer did draw his revolver and subsequently shot the subject."

Emergency first aid

Backup officers and others at the scene performed CPR on the young man, who later died at the hospital.

Kenny suffered a blow to the head, but is being treated and will be released, Koval said. Kenny has been placed on administrative leave with pay.

Koval said he's not sure what Robinson was doing at the house in the first place.

"His relationship to the home is unclear to me, although there were certainly familiar acquaintances. This was not a random place. He had hung out," Koval said.

Mayor: Incident 'an enormous tragedy'

In a statement Saturday, state Attorney General Brad Schimel said he "can only imagine the heartbreak" of Robinson's parents and added he's "concerned for the officer...who, I imagine, is experiencing great trauma as well."

"They are all in my thoughts and prayers," Schimel said.

Under Wisconsin law, officer-involved shootings are investigated by an outside agency, in this case the Division of Criminal Investigation. Once DCI completes the investigation, the report will go to the local district attorney, Koval said.

Some were demanding answers sooner rather than later.

On Friday night, dozens of demonstrators came out to the area around the apartment, which police had blocked off. A group also moved toward City Hall before dispersing early Saturday.

"Who do we trust?" some called out, prompting the response, "No one!"

On Sunday, parishioners at Solid Rock Baptist Church in Madison reacted to Robinson's death.

"It's just crazy how you can be in a classroom with somebody and the next year they're done," Jamiyah Garner said.

"A lot of the people in this church can relate to a lot of the stuff that's going on right now, and a lot of people in this church do have black sons," Jenyi Kaclaik said.

tony robinson church service

Social media protest

The protesters' sentiments were echoed online, where some adopted the #WillyStreet hashtag in reference to Williamson Street, where the shooting happened.

"Praying for Madison tonight," wrote one activist. "Stand up, sit in, walk out - until u get answers. And until there are no more hashtag eulogies."

Mayor Paul Soglin spoke to the raw feelings, calling what happened "an enormous tragedy."

"We've got a family that's really hurting," Soglin said, according to WKOW. "And we've got a city and neighborhood that's feeling pretty well hurt itself."

Mayor Soglin says he's grateful that so far, protests have been peaceful.

"The feeling I get is the vast majority of people want to go to the next step which is solutions," Mayor Soglin said.

Soglin says Madison has been considering body cameras for police officers.

"The community is split on this subject.  It seems to be a real viable solution when we have situations like this," Soglin said.

Some of the protesters were members of the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition that was formed last summer after the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson.

The group wants more reactive policing in African-American neighborhoods, said group member Brandi Grayson.

She said Madison police park on street corners in African-American neighborhoods and wait for something to happen, which leads to residents being hassled. That doesn't happen in white neighborhoods, she said.

She said Young, Gifted and Black will be working with church groups on Sunday and will hold more rallies Tuesday and Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Sun Prairie High School is planning to provide additional support for classmates and friends of Robinson.

Superintendent Tim Culver says Robinson was a 2014 graduate of Sun Prairie High. In a statement, Culver offered condolences to Robinson's family and friends and said the school district is reaching out to teachers and staff members who had a relationship with Robinson.

Culver said school social workers and counselors would be available Monday for anyone that needs support.

A vigil was held in Tony Robinson's honor in Madison on Sunday evening.

Tony Robinson vigil

Since January 5th, 2015, the Wisconsin's Department of Justice has started to investigate five officer-involved shootings. Three of those were fatal -- one in Milwaukee, one in Green Bay and now one in Madison.

Monitor FOX6 News and FOX6Now.com for updates on this developing story.

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11 comments

  • Sheila Moyet

    If you attack a police officer, hit him in the head and knock him to the ground…you get shot. Plain and simply. Some people need to realize that for every action there is a reaction. I think it is a shame that the media is fueling this racial fire. What ever happened to impartial news reporting?

  • wow

    The media is quilty. Of fueling this incident..release the details regarding the criminal history of the 19 year old Man…he was a violent criminal by history. ..his mom must not have known. He was and has been violent. .what a shock for her…also the friends who stated. He was a role model..Wow.not so much…a another instance. Of don’t mess attack go after officers..bad stiff happens..people called the law for the 19yr old Mans bad behavior…the media paints him as this sweet ..kid…he wasnt…report the truth. The facts. .don’t ramp up something that isnt there….

  • chris

    Marie Stubbs you are an idiot. You obviously know nothing about law enforcement or how officers are trained. You aim for the biggest target (ie center mass) and you shoot until the threat is stopped. Good luck at shooting someone in the arm and leg when 1, the are a moving target and 2 the are actively attacking you. 3, he is not a child. He is a 19 year old convicted felon (convicted of a violent crime of robbery)4. He was 1/2 black 1/2 white. I bet if he had killed the police officer he would be addressed as 1/2 black 1/2 white, but since the police killed him he won the race lottery and became 100% black. #blacklivesmatter how about # I Fought the Law and the Law Won.

  • William Sipple

    Although Robinson did have a conviction for armed robbery, his mother insisted her son was a gentle person.

    “My son has never been a violent person– never — and to die in such a violent, violent way is — it baffles me,” Andrea Irwin said.

  • Richard

    Time to remove all white officers from black neighborhoods, so they cant scream racist every time they break the law.

  • Andrew

    Boo-who! You act like a violent criminal you get whats coming to you. & nobody cares if he was “unarmed”. More importantly, did you all see that an Old Navy is coming to the Bayshore Mall! Ahhhh!! How Exciting!!

  • H. Mueller

    “The feeling I get is the vast majority of people want to go to the next step which is solutions,” Mayor Soglin said.

    They could stop attacking people, that way they wouldn’t get shot. There is the solution. Let’s move on to another problem now.

Comments are closed.

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