Continuing the disturbing trend of American police shooting unarmed citizens, eyes turn to Wisconsin as authorities released dashcam footage this week of Madison police officer Matt Kenny shooting a 19-year-old man named Tony Robinson.
The Dane County district attorney’s decision not to seek charges against Kenny has sparked a barrage of protests in and around Wisconsin which have largely flown under the radar due to the peaceful, non-violent nature of the protesters.
The dashcam footage, posted below, is from the evening of March 6, when Officer Kenny was dispatched to Robinson’s home after dispatchers received reports of the teenager acting erratically and violent.
A friend of Robinson told police that he was “tweaking, chasing everybody,” and described his behavior as “outrageous.” Two other men also reported to police that they were punched and/or strangled by Robinson and reported his behavior as “unstable.”
But dispatchers also informed Kenny, who was first on the scene, that Robinson was likely unarmed, but probably intoxicated.
The video, which appears to clip out several seconds in the beginning, shows Kenny pulling into the driveway of a duplex where Robinson was reportedly upstairs. Kenny then walks to the rear of the house, then the video cuts to reveal Kenny standing on the stoop right outside the side door.
Backup appears to arrive just seconds after Kenny sets foot into the residence as audio from another officer can be heard in the video.
Less then 20 seconds later, Kenny can be heard and then seen firing a total of seven shots as he retreats outside the door, killing Robinson.
Kenny maintains that he opened fire after being punched once by Robinson near the top of the stairs and told investigators that he “did not know how he got to the bottom of the stairs”, according to an account delivered by Dane County district attorney Ismael Ozanne on Tuesday.
After the gunfire subsided, Robinson’s feet appear motionless at the bottom of the stairwell. One backup officer non-nonchalantly radios in to dispatch that shots were fired before strolling up to the scene of the shooting while putting on a jacket, stepping over Robinson’s lifeless body as if he were out for a Sunday stroll.
Meanwhile, Kenny is shouting at Robinson, “stop right there! Don’t move!”
Kenny told investigators that he rendered aid after determining that Robinson had no weapon, but the video cuts off before Kenny can be seen doing so. Kenny was placed on a paid leave until the investigation concluded.
In an interview with CNN, police union executive, Jim Palmer was asked if Kenny possessed a taser and why non-lethal force was not used. Palmer refused to comment on whether or not Kenny had a taser, but did offer up a reason why Wisconsin officers generally do not use tasers.
“Typically, I will tell you that an officer won’t use a taser unless they have lethal backup”
This certainly raises the question as to the urgency of Kenny’s entrance into the residence. With backup on the scene, or seconds away, it seems plausible that Kenny could have waited for additional officers to provide lethal backup, especially with reports of Robinson acting irrational and on probation for armed robbery.
Regardless of what led up to Robinson being shot, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne examined the case and concluded that sufficient evidence did not exist to charge Kenny.
“I conclude that this tragic and unfortunate death was the result of a lawful use of deadly police force and that no charges should be brought against Officer Kenny in the death of Tony Robinson Jr.,” he said. A report on the investigation into the shooting conducted by state authorities was also released.
Shortly thereafter, angry yet peaceful protesters took to the streets in a push to reform the violence at the hands of police. One high school senior, JT Ruffin, took to the megaphone to address hundreds of protesters outside the house where Robinson was shot.
“I knew he wasn’t going to get indicted, but seeing all you people out here … I can tell that Madison is ready for a change,” Ruffin said. “I don’t see people out here who are going to loot. I don’t see people here who are going to riot. I see people who are ready for a change. Madison is going to be the change for this movement.”
It appears that the violence that erupted in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray, has taught police accountability activists an important lesson on how senseless violence will not justify any wrongdoing by police, but will only cast a negative shadow on anyone who calls for reform.
The only silver lining to come out of all the senseless killings by police is that more and more people have become aware of the institutionalized problem every day. The solutions, however, are a bit more unclear and far off, so until then, we need to start protecting and serving each other.