In November 2004, police pulled over 21-year-old Michael Bell in front of his house in Kenosha. Officers yanked Bell from his SUV, out of the view of the squad car's dash cam, and in the minutes that followed, shot him in the head, killing him, while his mother and sister watched.
His father, Michael Bell, was understandably devastated. He hoped that the subsequent investigation would uncover what happened to his son. But he quickly became alarmed by the process, as the Kenosha Police Department investigated its own officers.
"I expected it to be a proper investigation, what I was used to in the military," says Bell, a former U.S. Air Force pilot. "Within 48 hours, before the toxicology report had come back, before the autopsy report, before all the witnesses had been interviewed, they came up with a conclusion that it was justified."
"I was appalled," Bell adds. "I thought, 'What am I missing here?'"
The killing put Bell on a crusade to change the way police are investigated. In 2010, Bell won a $1.75 million settlement against Kenosha. And his efforts helped secure the passage of statewide legislation requiring independent investigations of officer killings. Championed by Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) and Rep. Garey Bies (R-Sister Bay), it was signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker on April 23, 2014.
The law mandates that police officers who kill someone be investigated by a team led by at least two investigators from an outside agency.
While Taylor is pleased the bill passed, she says that the early efforts weren't what she hoped for. A week after passage, a Milwaukee police officer shot Dontre Hamilton 14 times, killing him in Red Arrow Park. The officer, Christopher Manney, was later fired for violating department policy. But he was not charged with a crime.
Taylor found that investigation inadequate. "It is very obvious if you look at that report, the vast bulk was from the Milwaukee Police Department," she says. "But to be fair, the law had just passed."
"Now they've had time to put procedures in place," Taylor adds.
The investigation of Tony Robinson's shooting death by officer Matt Kenny is being led by the state's Division of Criminal Investigation. Few details have been disclosed.
Attorney General Brad Schimel released a statement Monday, saying "I want the public to be aware that the Wisconsin Department of Justice is expeditiously working to complete the investigation. Because officer-involved incidents involve considerable resources, we have assigned teams of agents from the DOJ Division of Criminal Investigation offices around the state to work on this case."
Since the law passed, Bell says at least 11 people have been killed by police in Wisconsin -- six white, five people of color. He maintains a database of police killings nationally at killedbypolice.net.
In Wisconsin, officers are investigated in four ways: by an inquest jury, a police department, a police and fire commission or a district attorney. Bell has searched state records going back to 1885 and has been unable to find any homicides by police ruled unjustified by any of the first three methods. District attorneys have found three police shootings unjustified.
Taylor says the way police have traditionally been investigated is fraught with problems, because the officers have "relationships with people who they are investigating." Bell says that officers have up to 48 hours to give a statement and often are allowed to review evidence and get legal counsel.
Taylor, Bell and others had pushed for not just an independent investigation, but an independent board to review those investigations. That measure was removed from the bill, but Taylor continues to push for it.
The Madison Police Department has assigned investigators to assist the state in its investigation, says Lt. Cory Nelson, who heads MPD's professional standards and internal affairs unit. Nelson is doing a separate review of the incident "to see if policy was followed." But he says he won't make a determination -- and Kenny will remain on administrative leave -- until the state completes its investigation.