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Discontent persists two years after officer shooting of Tony Robinson

Family and friends held a vigil Monday for Tony Robinson, an unarmed teenager fatally shot by a Madison police officer in 2015, to commemorate the anniversary of his death.

Image By: Katie Scheidt

Grief and anger were palpable as hundreds of friends, family and community members held a demonstration Monday night to commemorate the two-year anniversary of the death of Tony Robinson, a teenager shot and killed in 2015 by Madison Police Department Officer Matt Kenny.

Family and friends still seeking justice

Demonstrators chanted, “The whole damn system is guilty as hell, indict, convict, send those killer cops to jail,” and “No justice, no peace, no racist police,” as they marched from Madison East High School to the Social Justice Center—a block from where Robinson was shot.

“The fact that they need to look a f---ing bullet in the eye before they look a real person in the eye is f---ing stupid,” a protester yelled. “They took [Robinson’s life] like he was a f---ing dog. There are six bullets in a revolver and they took seven to kill him. Are you kidding me? There’s something obviously wrong with the country and I can’t stand it at this point.”

Several of Robinson’s family members—who recently reached a historic settlement in the civil lawsuit filed against the city of Madison in association with the teen’s shooting—attended the march.

“He is a wonderful kid,” said Robinson’s cousin, Tia. “This is trying to feel a little bit of justice where there never is. Accidents happen in life, we agree with that, but this situation was not an accident.”

Andrea Irwin, Robinson’s mother, spoke out several times during the event, calling for justice for her son’s death. She encouraged the community to visit a website with compiled evidence she said showed that her son was innocent.

“He did nothing other than ingest something he couldn’t handle,” Irwin said. “He needed help. There were calls for help. My son got seven bullets to his face and his chest. I’m not done and my lawyers aren’t done … but now, after two years, now that this settlement is over, now we can be angry.”

Friends of Robinson said they showed up to remember a man who was easy to get along with, and whose character seemed at odds with Kenny’s account of the altercation.

“I was there the night he died. We used to kick it, we were real close. He was laid-back, cool, someone you want to kick it with, not someone you want to shoot,” said Dawan Reynolds Jr., a friend of Robinson’s. “It just shows that people are scared of a skin tone more than a personality.”

The fatal shooting has been a source of heated disagreement between the family and MPD. Protesters carried banners that read “Fire Matt Kenny” and “Community Control Over Police.”

Conflicting evidence

David Owens and Anand Swaminathan, prosecuting attorneys in the civil suit, observed the two-year mark of the teen’s death by presenting evidence at a press conference that they said doesn’t match up with Kenny’s claims.

“The truth means there’s space for Tony Robinson to become Tony Robinson,” Swaminathan said. “For two years there has been a story told about Tony Robinson, a kid who attacked a police officer and got shot. That’s not what happened. Tony Robinson can’t be the person that the family knows and loves if that’s the perception of who he is.”

Gina Heeb | The Daily Cardinal

Owens and Swaminathan said an audio-video synchronization disproved Kenny’s claim that the first three shots were fired at the top of the staircase, as a response to being punched by Robinson. The video compilation—which matches up visual footage from Kenny’s dashboard camera with corresponding audio recording from the microphone of Sgt. Jamar Gary, an officer sent to the scene as backup—shows the first three shots being fired at the base of the staircase.

Prosecutors also questioned the proximity between Robinson and Kenny when those first three shots were fired. Evidence shows, Owens and Swaminathan said, that at least two of the first three shots were fired from a distance. While Kenny said that Robinson was one foot above him on the staircase, swinging punches, forensic evidence showed that all shots fired from close range entered Robinson with downward trajectory—suggesting the two were not where he claimed at the time.

Owens and Swaminathan noted Robinson’s body position remained “unchanged” after the first three rounds fired, disproving Kenny’s claim that Tony was still “aggressing” toward him during the last four shots.

“Madison is not like other places,” Swaminathan said. “This is a place that when people know the truth, they will act. And when they act, their elected officials might listen. So we’re here in part because we have a hopeful message. We want to present the truth to the public and they can take whatever steps they believe are important.”

The United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division are investigating the shooting, according to NBC15.

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