About 1,000 people attended Tony Robinson's funeral on March 14 at East High School.
It is impossible to talk or write about the life and death of Tony Terrell Robinson Jr. without acknowledging the profound complexity of each.
Through the polarized lens of public opinion, the unarmed 19-year-old shot and killed by Madison Police Officer Matt Kenny on March 6 was either a violent felon who attacked a cop and paid the ultimate price or a martyr who died at the hands of an unjust system.
To the thousands of demonstrators who have mobilized to protest his death, he is a symbol of police violence against African American men. To the media, he is a story that continues to capture the nation's attention as it unfolds.
But to the community he left behind, Robinson was more than a headline or a hashtag -- he was a son, a brother, a nephew, a friend. Those who knew him best remember him as kind, smart, funny and eager to please -- a young man on the threshold of adulthood grappling with mistakes from his past while striving for his dreams.
He was disadvantaged. He grew up poor. He identified as African American, but his ethnicity was both black and white. Living in both worlds, he struggled to fit in.
"There's something so beautiful about being a black kid in America trying to make it against all odds," his uncle Turin Carter says. "He was so close."
Robinson's birth was unexpected -- his mother, Andrea Irwin, was 17 years old and still in high school when he was born. In many ways, mother and son grew up together, says Carter, Irwin's brother, who considered his nephew more like a little brother.
His father, Tony Robinson Sr., was in and out of prison for much of his son's life, Carter says, and his absence contributed to the lack of structure during the younger Robinson's formative years.
When Robinson was 5 years old, the family moved to Stoughton -- a small, rural, predominantly white community outside of Madison. The family experienced prejudice, Carter recalls.
"Terrell had no friends," he says, calling Robinson by the name close family used for him. "The neighbor kids couldn't hang out with him because he was black."
As with other shootings involving unarmed men of color, the issue of race has been central to the Robinson narrative, but Carter says his nephew's biracial heritage makes the situation unique -- and largely misunderstood.
The fact that Robinson was initially described by police as black based on his appearance reinforces America's black-white racial binary paradigm.
"To say Terrell is black based on his appearance is to uphold Plessy v. Ferguson," Carter says, referencing the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that challenged racial segregation under the "separate but equal" doctrine in a time when the "one-drop" rule applied to those with black ancestry.
Early experiences with prejudice underscored Robinson's desire for acceptance, Carter says. Later, the family moved back to Madison and lived in the Allied Drive neighborhood on the city's west side. Carter describes the area as a "stereotypical ghetto" with high rates of poverty, unemployment and crime.
"There were things that we shouldn't have had to witness," he says.
After a few years, the family moved to Madison's east side to be closer to family, but Robinson's tumultuous upbringing continued as he changed schools several times before graduating from Sun Prairie High School in 2014.
In his teens he was a caregiver for his mother, who had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and a role model for his younger siblings. But he also found his way into trouble, participating in a home invasion last April and pleading guilty to armed robbery.
This conviction has been cited by some as indicative of Robinson's character -- an assumption those close to Robinson find offensive. Carter says the crime had been planned by others, and Robinson got a call asking if he wanted to participate. He went along with the group and paid the price -- three years on probation.
"He was trying to fit in," Carter says. "It was a choice he made, and he paid his debt."
Court documents from the case show that Robinson had been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and depression -- problems that Carter says has little to do with his nephew's identity or the events leading up to his death.
He offers an alternative diagnosis: Robinson was a "modern, 21st century kid" with access to massive amounts of information and expansive social networks but who struggled to know how to express himself.
Robinson found acceptance in a close-knit group of friends who called themselves the "Splash Mob," says Jordan Chester, a friend of Robinson's and a student at East High. The two met in a middle school youth football league and would later explore the streets of Madison on their skateboards.
The group's unofficial headquarters on Willy Street -- the main artery of what many consider Madison's most liberal neighborhood -- was the house Robinson had been living in with his friends, brothers Javier and Anthony Limon. That house was the scene of the fatal shooting.
Says Chester: "I don't think I can ever go back inside there."