MADISON, Wis. — The May 12 announcement by Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne that he would not pursue charges against Madison police officer Matt Kenny for the killing of Tony Robinson, 19, has fueled outrage here. Kenny shot the Black youth seven times on March 6.
There have been numerous protests both after Robinson was killed and again since Ozanne’s announcement, including one of hundreds to the state Capitol here led by his family May 12.
“This isn’t only about race,” Sharon Irwin, Robinson’s grandmother, told the Militant May 14. “It’s about them letting police officers get away with murder. All they have to say is that they feared for their lives and they’re given the benefit of the doubt.”
According to the police, they received calls that an unarmed youth had assaulted at least two people and jumped in and out of traffic. Madison officials have released toxicology tests that found traces of hallucinogenic mushrooms, marijuana and Xanax in Robinson’s system.
The police say that Kenny, a Caucasian officer, entered the building where Robinson died when he heard what sounded like an altercation. As Kenny got to the top of the stairs, Robinson punched him in the head, the cops claim.
In a police dash cam video, Kenny is seen entering the house. Then shots are fired and Kenny backs out of the house and shoots several more times. Two cops come to back Kenny up and walk over the youth’s body and into the house.
“We’ve seen the video of the shooting,” Irwin said. “And it clearly shows Kenny pointing his gun downward as he fires. He’s changed his story a number of times.
“I don’t care if Tony was high, that doesn’t carry the death penalty,” Irwin said. “That’s what Kenny meted out to my grandson. If someone is intoxicated or having psychological problems they should be helped, not killed.”
Following the DA’s decision, Robinson’s mother, Andrea Irwin, who is Caucasian, other relatives, and a notably multinational group of hundreds of protesters marched to the Capitol.
“When they decided that officer Matt Kenny was not going to be indicted for brutally murdering my 19-year-old son, they thought this battle was over,” Andrea Irwin told the crowd. “I am not the type to be defeated, and I am not but just beginning to fight. My son dying will forever be remembered as the day that we are going to change history and not be the ones that are going to be put down and killed anymore. This is not over.”
The family plans to file a civil lawsuit against the Madison Police Department. “They have done a smear campaign against my child and against me since this all began,” Irwin told CNN.
On May 13 nearly 200 demonstrators, many of them high school students organized by the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition, marched from the apartment where Robinson was killed to the Dane County Courthouse, where they held a mock trial of Kenny.
Madison, with a population of 240,000, is nearly 80 percent Caucasian and 7 percent African-American. Ozanne is the first African-American district attorney in the state.
Working people from the predominantly Caucasian working-class neighborhood where Robinson was killed have made up a large part of the protests.
“I haven’t been part of the marches myself,” said Sara Osten, who is Caucasian and lives a block away from the building where Robinson was killed. “I’m amazed at how calm and determined his mother is in this situation. This fight is important because it will help make it a little less likely that something like this will happen again.”
Mark Clements and Tony Powell contributed to this article.
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