Koval tells black church leaders he ‘desperately’ seeks forgiveness
The most emotional moments during a Friday night forum African-American church leaders hosted to help mourners prepare for Tony Robinson’s funeral came as Madison Police Chief Mike Koval talked about what his department’s officer-involved shooting death has meant for him.
“One day…I hope everybody in this room can respect that I don’t want to be defined by this,” Koval said at The Faith Place Church. “We do a lot of good. For a lot of people. I hope at some point there can be some forgiveness. I desperately seek that.”
Koval made reference to the Robinson family during his speech, saying Madison would not have remained as peaceful if it were not for how they chose to publicly handle their family tragedy.
“When people have asked what kept our community intact, why didn’t we have a different narrative like Ferguson, I point exclusively to the graciousness of the Robinson family,” Koval said fighting back tears. “But for them in the midst of an incredible loss, but for them we wouldn’t have had the capacity to go forward.”
Dane County Boys and Girls Club CEO Michael Johnson, who invited Koval to visit the Robinson family about seven hours after the officer involved-shooting, praised the chief’s leadership over the last week.
“The chief in my opinion has really handled this well. And let’s give him a round of applause,” Johnson said as the audience responded with loud praise. “You had people from outside the community comparing our police department to the police department of Ferguson. And it’s two very different police departments.”
Johnson said Koval’s cultural competency and already strong relationship with the black community, helped lead to a peaceful week following Officer Matt Kenny shooting and killing Robinson during an altercation inside a Williamson Street home.
“I am proud to announce that we were able to raise over $20,000 to help out with funeral expenses,” Johnson told the crowd of about 80 people, including church leaders, law enforcement and many young people who Johnson invited to join him on The Faith Place Church’s pulpit.
Robinson family representative Jarome Flowers told those in attendance the family was overwhelmingly appreciative for donations from around the country, including a large one from Ho-Chunk Casino Executive Manager Dan Brown.
“Obviously these are expenses that were not planned. And for that we are very grateful,” Flowers said. “We want to thank the community for donating something more than money. Hope and relief that these senseless killings will stop with Tony.”
Billed as a “commUNITY forum,” the Madison African American Council of Churches who hosted the meeting inside the Sun Prairie church, said they aimed to start a dialogue about how to unify and move forward from the March 6 shooting.
“I think the key is collaboration,” AACC’s president Bishop Harold Rayford said. “In the past we’ve had boots on the ground. But everyone’s been working in their own trench. The groups we’ve invited are doing their thing alone without the assistance of one another.”
Along with the 20 predominantly black Madison churches the AACC represents the event partnered with 12 community organizations to push forward that point.
“I want hearts to feel hope. I don’t want people to feel like this is a hopeless battle,” Rayford said. “What can we do to make the world better for Tony’s siblings and other African-American children? And the children of our community?”