District Attorney Ismael Ozanne says Madison Police Officer Matt Kenny's fatal shooting of Tony Robinson was a "lawful use of deadly police force."
Madison Police Officer Matt Kenny will not face criminal charges in the March 6 shooting death of unarmed biracial teen Tony Robinson, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne announced Tuesday.
“I conclude this tragic and unfortunate event was the result of lawful use of deadly police force,” Ozanne said.
Before announcing his conclusion, Ozanne stressed that he understood the gravity of such decisions and the long troubling history with racial disparities in both the United States and Dane County.
“I am a man who understands the pain of unjustifiable profiling,” he said, explaining that he is a “person of color from a biracial marriage.” He also noted that he is the first district attorney of color not only in Dane County but also in Wisconsin.
“My decision is not based on emotion,” Ozanne added. “This decision is guided by the rule of law and the oath I took to uphold the constitution.”
Ozanne said he determined that Kenny complied with Wisconsin Statute 175.47 and that he held himself “to the reasonable doubt standard. In other words, what can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”
He detailed the evidence he reviewed in the case, including three 911 calls made by different people in the minutes before the shooting. Toxicology reports confirmed that Robinson had been on marijuana, hallucinogenic mushrooms and Xanax. And he described physical evidence from the scene, including damage to a stairway wall where Robinson allegedly attacked Kenny.
Kenny told investigators he was dispatched to the apartment, believing that someone might be under assault. He examined a driveway, before entering the home. He began to go up the stairs to the second story apartment when Robinson allegedly attacked him, hitting him on the side of a face with a closed fist. The officer told investigators Robinson continued “to aggress towards him, swinging at him.”
Ozanne said Kenny “was afraid he would be struck again and lose consciousness or fall backwards and hit his head and that his firearm would be taken from him” and used on him or another person in the home.
Kenny shot Robinson seven times at close range within three seconds. “I believe it is reasonable to conclude all shots had to have been fired near the bottom on the stairs,” Ozanne said.
Ozanne ended the press conference with a plea for peace. “I’m concerned that recent violence around our nation is giving some in our community a justification for fear, hatred and violence,” he said. “True and lasting change does not come from violence, but from exercising our voices and our votes.”
The decision comes more than two months after the fatal shooting in a Williamson Street apartment and more than six weeks after the state’s Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigations turned over its report on the incident.
Ozanne took no questions from reporters following the news conference at the Dane County Public Safety Building, opting instead to meet with members of Robinson’s family to discuss his decision.
For weeks, Ozanne has declined to comment on a timeline for his decision or the contents of the DOJ investigation, which includes more than 1,300 pages of reports and 23 hours of video.
The family plans to hold a press conference at 4 p.m. Tuesday in front of the Social Justice Center at 1202 Williamson St. followed by a march to the Capitol.
Robinson’s family members have repeatedly called for peaceful protests in the weeks following the shooting. But at least one area business is closing early Tuesday in anticipation of demonstrations.
An employee at Artful Home, 931 East Main St., confirmed that the business would be closing at 2 p.m. Tuesday out of concern for “possible disruption” in the area.
Members of the newly formed Black Leadership Council have organized about 100 volunteer “peacekeepers” to attend protest demonstrations and intervene if necessary.
The organization includes members of the Dane County NAACP, the African American Council of Churches, black Greek organizations, the Urban League of Greater Madison and 100 Black Men of Madison.
Members of the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition, who organized a series of protests immediately following the shooting, have opted not to hold any demonstrations on Tuesday “out of respect for Tony Robinson’s family.”
“We call community members to remember Tony on this day and reflect on the complex ways state violence impacts black lives,” the group said in a statement.
The coalition instead will mobilize for a “mass action” at 9 a.m. Wednesday in front of 1125 Williamson St., where the shooting took place. In a demonstration they’re calling “Black-OUT Wednesday,” coalition members will hold a “people’s court” and a march in connection with “Black Spring,” a national movement for black liberation.
Ozanne was appointed DA by former Gov. Jim Doyle in 2010 and elected to the post in 2012. He has had to make charging decisions in seven cases of officer-involved shooting deaths involving a total of 13 officers. In each case, he found the use of deadly force justified.
National analyses of officer-involved deaths show that charges are rare and convictions are rarer.
A new Wisconsin law requires outside agencies to probe officer-involved shootings. Since the law took effect in April 2014, the DOJ has investigated 12 officer-involved deaths, up 71% from 2013, according to a Legislative Fiscal Bureau report released earlier this month.
The Legislature's budget committee recently agreed to add four additional DOJ investigators to keep up with demand.