The shooting death of a 19-year-old unarmed black male by a white Wisconsin police officer prompted protests Saturday chanting “Black Lives Matter.”
Authorities said that Tony Robinson assaulted Officer Matt Kenny before he was shot in his apartment Friday night. Kenny forced his way inside the apartment after hearing a disturbance, while responding to a call, police said.
Madison Police Chief Mike Koval said that Kenny was injured during the incident, but did not go into detail. It was unclear whether Robinson was alone at the time.
“He was unarmed. That’s going to make this all the more complicated for the investigators, for the public to accept,” Koval said of Robinson. The department said Kenny would not have been wearing a body camera.
Several dozen protesters gathered outside the police department Saturday holding signs and chanted “Black Lives Matter” – a slogan adopted by demonstrators nationwide after recent deaths of unarmed black men. The demonstrators moved toward the neighborhood where the shooting occurred.
“For those who do want to take to the street and protest,” Koval said, his department would be there to “defend, facilitate, foster those First Amendment rights of assembly and freedom of speech.” The promise echoed as a stark contrast to Ferguson, where an aggressive police response to protesters after Brown’s death drew worldwide attention.
Koval also asked the protesters for “nondestructive” demonstrations. Koval said he met with Robinson’s mother overnight and spoke to his grandparents expressing sympathy for their loss.
Kenny, a 12-year veteran of the Madison department, was involved in the shooting death of a suspect in 2007 as well. He was cleared of wrongdoing because the situation was determined as “suicide by cop-type.”
A picture of Kenny on the Madison department’s website shows him with a police horse he trains, alongside a short first-person bio in which he says he served nine years in the U.S. Coast Guard before joining the department.
Kenny has been placed on administrative leave pending results of an investigation by the state’s Division of Criminal Investigation.
A 2014 Wisconsin law requires police departments to have outside agencies investigate officer-involved deaths after three high-profile incidents within a decade — including one in Madison — didn’t result in criminal charges, raising questions from the victims’ families about the integrity of investigations.
Koval said police responded to a call at 6:30 pm Friday of a person running into traffic. A second call made to police said he was “responsible for a battery.”
Kenny barreled into the apartment after hearing a disturbance. Koval said Kenny was assaulted before firing his weapon at Robinson.
One of Robinson’s neighbors, Grant Zimmerman, said Robinson would run between his apartment and his roommate’s mother’s house across the street “all the time, even in the middle of traffic.”
Wisconsin’s online courts database shows that Robinson, a 2014 graduate of Sun Prairie High School, pleaded guilty to felony armed robbery in October and was sentenced in December to three years’ probation. A police report said he was among four teenagers arrested in a home invasion in which the suspects were seen entering an apartment building with a long gun. They ran with electronics and other property and three of the four were captured. A shotgun and a “facsimile” handgun were recovered, according to the report.
The Madison neighborhood was quiet Saturday night, according to the Associated Press. One officer guarded the apartment building where the shooting took place.