Tony Robinson’s family sues city, officer

The family of Tony Robinson, a biracial man fatally shot by Madison Police Officer Matt Kenny earlier this year, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the officer and the city of Madison Wednesday.

“I will not let my son be forgotten,” Robinson’s mother, Andrea Irwin, said during a Wednesday news conference. “And I will not let this city get away with what they’ve done to him and us, period.”

The suit, in part, alleges Kenny lied about getting into a March 6 altercation as justification for shooting Robinson, as he responded to calls that the 19-year-old had attacked two people and was running in traffic.

On May 12, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne declined to charge Kenny, calling the officer’s use of force at 1125 Williamson Street “lawful.” At that time, Ozanne said Robinson had a combination of Xanax, mushrooms and marijuana in his system, and said multiple witnesses confirmed Robinson’s violent behavior.

An internal Madison Police Department review also cleared Kenny in June, saying the officer had followed the department’s deadly force protocol. At that time, police Chief Mike Koval announced Kenny would be returning to duty, but declined to say when he would return to patrol. Koval said Kenny would, at first, be working with training logistics and first-responder training.

However, the suit argues there was never actually a need for Kenny to enter the home that night, since he never received word the person who called for help was there. Further, Robinson’s family feels Kenny purposely entered the home without backup, and say surveillance audio and video prove the fight did not occur since Kenny can be seen firing his weapon outside of the home.

“The death was completely unnecessary. Because you can see on the video the officer was in no danger. No one was presenting a threat to him,” Robinson family attorney Jon Loevy said.

However, Kenny’s attorney, Wisconsin Professional Police Association Executive Director Jim Palmer, insists Wisconsin’s new law, which required the independent officer involved shooting investigation evidence to be released, should stop any questions if Kenny is telling the truth.

“It’s all been consistent as to what Officer Kenny’s actions were on the night of March 6,” Palmer said. “To think that investigators, the district attorney would know that all this information would be public, with this law that no other state has, that they would somehow cover up something or distort something is completely, without any basis whatsoever.”

Deputy City Attorney Patricia Lauten said she hasn’t seen the lawsuit but vowed to mount a vigorous defense.

The part of the suit naming the city of Madison references the just-settled Paul Heenan officer involved shooting case.

Robinson’s family references the Heenan case to say much like Kenny, the officer involved in that shooting had a previous history of using deadly force.

In the big picture they say these two cases show a pattern of a city and police department lacking discipline or proper training, and actually encouraging use of deadly force.

The family is seeking a jury trial, but has not said how much money they want.

“We have been robbed of the beauty that was my son. And since I couldn’t get any justice in the criminal courts, they chose not to charge this man with murdering my child. And allowed him to go on with his life. And now my other children are forced to run into him in the streets of Madison where we live,” Irwin said. “This is all I have left. And he will answer. And they will answer.”