DA: No charges in Robinson shooting
Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne says there will not be criminal charges brought against the Madison police officer who killed Tony Robinson.
Ozanne made the decision after a review of the incident and examination of a report from the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation report on the shooting.
Officer Matthew Kenny shot the 19-year-old in the stairwell of an apartment house on Williamson Street on March 6. Kenny was responding to calls that Robinson had attacked two people and was running in traffic.
Ozanne said during Tuesday’s news conference that he met with Robinson’s mother, Andrea Irwin, and other community members while reviewing the case.
“My decision will not bring Tony Robinson back. It will not end the racial disparities that exist in our justice system,” Ozanne said. “My decision is not based on emotion, but on the facts as they have been reported to me.”
Irwin said she doesn’t think the investigation was thorough enough.
“They could have done a lot. What they didn’t do was give my son any respect,” she said.
Ozanne said during his review of the case, he determined the Madison Police Department complied with state laws for officer-involved deaths.
Ozanne said the documents and videos he reviewed indicated that Kenny got information on his police squad car computer that a 911 caller was not aware of any weapons and assumed Robinson had taken hallucinogenic mushrooms. Another 911 caller reported seeing Robinson attacking pedestrians on Williamson Street.
Ozanne said toxicology reports confirmed Robinson used hallucinogenic mushrooms, marijuana and Xanax the night of the shooting.
One caller said he feared both for himself and for Robinson.
Ozanne said Kenny also thought another person in the apartment was in danger when he entered it just before the fatal shooting.
Kenny’s statement indicated that he entered the house after hearing a disturbance, and when he announced himself as being with Madison police, he was punched in the side of his head by Robinson.
According to audio recordings and police documents Ozanne reviewed, seven shots were fired in three seconds. Ozanne said Robinson was shot from front to back.
The Dane County Medical Examiner reported earlier that Robinson suffered firearm trauma to his head, torso and right arm.
The incident has sparked multiple protests, with demonstrators demanding Kenny be charged with homicide.
Attorney General Brad Schimel said the DOJ DCI investigation involved more than 100 investigative reports, more than 60 witness interviews, interviews of more than 40 separate households as a part of the neighborhood canvass, 29 agents, analysts and supervisors from the DCI and additional staffing from DCI, offices in Appleton, Milwaukee and Wausau.
About 200-300 people gathered in the 1100 block of Williamson Street Tuesday afternoon after Ozanne announced his decision.
The group marched from Williamson Street to the State Capitol and then to Grace Episcopal Church, Madison police said. The march was peaceful and there were no arrests or significant incidents, but traffic was briefly blocked along the route.
About a dozen people from all faiths gathered Tuesday night for a vigil at the Presbyterian church on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.
Church officials let people post their thoughts on a wall inside the church.
Pastors leading the vigil said they wanted to send the message that we are one community looking toward healing and hope.
Robinson’s family held a news conference Tuesday afternoon, and said they have a number of questions about the documents the DA reviewed.
Robinson’s grandmother, Sharon Irwin, said, “This is politics, not justice.”
Andrea Irwin said Tuesday night she is heartbroken and angry about the decision.
“They have done a smear campaign against my son and against me, since this all began, releasing things that were not even true against my son, knowing that it wasn’t involving my son,” Irwin said.
Irwin said the incident brought out a disgusting view of the city that she thought she would never see.
Robinson’s friend said protests over a decision not to charge the officer will be peaceful.
Jivonte Davis said he knew Robinson since fifth grade. He said he could “go out and break stuff” but it wouldn’t achieve anything.
Davis says Madison is not Ferguson and it’s not Baltimore, naming two cities that have recently seen violence in the wake of civilian deaths at the hands of police. He said Madison will “do this the right way.”
The Young, Gifted and Black Coalition released a statement Tuesday: “YGB did not anticipate justice would be served by the same system that killed Robinson and continues to violently target black and brown people. Despite anticipation of the results of the DA’s decision, YGB is extremely disappointed that the criminal system has once again supported the idea that Black Lives Do NOT Matter.”
Kenny’s attorney with the Wisconsin Professional Police Association released a statement Tuesday saying, “We believe the district attorney’s decision to exonerate officer Matthew Kenny was appropriate. The exhaustive independent and transparent investigation into this tragic incident has confirmed that Officer Kenny’s actions on the night of March 6 were lawful and in response to a deadly threat, from which Officer Kenny sustained numerous injuries, including a concussion.”
Madison Police Chief Mike Koval released a blog post Tuesday afternoon saying, “In the aftermath of this decision our city finds itself at a crossroads. We have the capacity to be part of a movement rather than settle for a moment.”
Koval said months before the shooting, an initiative was underway through the facilitation of the United Way seeking more thoughtful, long-term approaches to police and citizen encounters.
“MPD and other law enforcement agencies have been consistently meeting with not-for-profits, clergy, leaders of color, MMSD and members of city government to establish both a dialogue and a mechanism for exploring ways in which police can be more effective in promoting trust while also examining systems that may contribute to racial disparities in our criminal justice system,” Koval said.
Koval said he believes some people will make a principled decision to get arrested in order to make a definitive statement.
Koval said there are a number of conditions that must take place before considering Kenny’s return to active duty. Kenny had been on administrative leave since the shooting.
Koval said Kenny will remain on administrative leave until an internal investigation into the shooting is completed, which should be in the next week or two.
WPPA’s Executive Director Jim Palmer said Kenny is planning on returning to work with the Madison Police Department.
“I’m praying our community responds in a way that doesn’t cause harm to what the real issues are,” Dane County Boys and Girls Club CEO Michael Johnson said. “The district attorney laid out the facts as they are and the community can review those facts, and I think the dialogue now starts. I just hope that we as a community respond that we make sure we respond with peaceful intentions.”
Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said in a statement to News 3 “any way you look at it, this is a tragedy.”
“The important thing now, more than ever, is that we work together to address the challenges that face our community,” Parisi said.
Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said he will be reviewing Ozanne’s decision before making a statement Wednesday morning.