M.P. King / Wisconsin State Journal via AP

Wisconsin protesters decry police shooting death

Shooting of Tony Robinson is one of several officer-involved deaths that have led to increased scrutiny of police in US

Demonstrators blocked traffic and chanted as they marched through the streets of Madison, Wisconsin on Wednesday to voice their anger at a prosecutor's decision not to charge a white police officer in the shooting death of an unarmed biracial man.

An estimated 150 to 200 protesters slowly walked from the apartment building where Officer Matt Kenny shot 19-year-old Tony Robinson to the steps of the Dane County Courthouse, where they staged a mock trial of the city's police department.

Robinson's shooting is one of several officer-involved deaths that have led to increased scrutiny of police use of force in the United States, particularly against young black men.

The protest, which comes a day after Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne announced that he thinks Kenny's actions were justified, was organized by Young, Gifted and Black (YGB), a group that has been leading protests since the March 6 shooting.

All of the protests in Madison — a city of 240,000 people that is nearly 80 percent white and seven percent African-American, according to U.S. Census figures — have been peaceful, unlike some of the demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore following the deaths of young black men in those cities.

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin warned protesters Wednesday that anyone who broke the law would be arrested.

Police blocked off intersections and redirected traffic as the protesters marched through the streets and volunteers from several community groups, including 100 Black Men and the Urban League, looked on.

YGB leaders said whatever happened would depend on the police. Alix Shabazz implored her fellow protesters not to interact with officers.

"They are not your friend," Shabazz told the crowd. "There is nothing positive that is going to come from that [interaction]."

Ozanne, who is biracial but identifies as black, is Wisconsin's first minority district attorney. He pointed out his racial heritage as he made the announcement, saying he views Robinson's death through that lens but made his decision based on the facts.

"I am concerned that recent violence around our nation is giving some in our community a justification for fear, hatred and violence," Ozanne said Tuesday. "I am reminded that true and lasting change does not come from violence but from exercising our voices and our votes."

Police Chief Mike Koval said that he was "hoping for a different sort of outcome in our community in the days to come," as opposed to the unrest experienced elsewhere in the country.

According to witness accounts released by the Wisconsin Department of Justice, Robinson was high on mushrooms at a friend's apartment on the night he became violent and was killed. He tried to grab one friend's crotch and took a swing at another friend. He later went outside and punched a man on the sidewalk, strangled another man at a gas station across the street, ran in and out of traffic and took a swing at a couple before going back inside.

Officer Kenny responded to 911 calls and found the apartment house door open. He heard what he believed to be a disturbance in the upstairs apartment and thought someone was being attacked, he told investigators.

He drew his firearm and began to climb the stairs. He was near the top when he announced himself as a police officer. Robinson appeared and punched him in the head, he said.

Kenny said he was worried Robinson would knock him down the stairs, take his gun, shoot him and then kill whoever was in the apartment so he opened fire, hitting Robinson seven times. Kenny told the DOJ agent he couldn't use nonlethal force because of "space and time considerations."

Another officer arrived and checked the apartment only to find it empty.

"Stay with me. Stay with me," Kenny said he told Robinson before paramedics arrived. As other officers led Kenny away, a responding firefighter told investigators she heard him swearing to himself over and over.

Ozanne said toxicology reports confirmed Robinson had taken mushrooms, smoked marijuana and taken Xanax, an anti-anxiety drug. 

Attorney Jon Loevy, who represents Robinson's family, said Tuesday the decision left many unanswered questions. Andrea Irwin, Robinson's mother, said she had just begun to fight. Kenny's attorney, Jim Palmer, said on Wednesday he expected a department internal investigation to find that his client followed procedure, which would allow him to resume active duty. He is on paid administrative leave. 

Wire services


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