Around 60 people gathered in front of the gray-blue building at 1125 Willy Street last night to remember the life of Tony Robinson, who was shot and killed by a Madison Police officer eight years ago yesterday.
Family, friends, and community members held candles and signs, calling for Matt Kenny, the Madison Police Officer who shot and killed Robinson in 2015, to be charged with First Degree Reckless Homicide.
On March 6, 2015, friends of Tony Robinson called 911 for a check-person call, saying that Robinson had been acting erratically after consuming psychedelic mushrooms. When Kenny entered the stairwell of the apartment at 1125 Willy Street, he shot Robinson seven times, killing him.
Sharon Irwin, Tony Robinson’s grandmother, has been fighting to hold Kenny accountable since 2015, and led last night’s vigil. Irwin, who did not receive any money from a $3.35 million settlement with the city, criticized officials for deciding to pay out instead of charging Kenny.
“They thought that throwing millions of dollars at something mattered, that it would be what stopped anybody from doing anything,” Irwin says. “Well, I am a PTSD veteran, and I say *** you. I don’t need your money, I don’t want your money. Your money ain’t ***. They killed my family! It destroyed us!”
After Sharon Irwin was her daughter, Lorien , who had harsh words for District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, who declined to charge Kenny.
“We will have a jury of 12 of our peers judge you, not some sweaty, scary **** in the DA’s office who says we can’t get it because he’s afraid of losing his position,” Carter says. “You work for us! We put you there! You aren’t allowed to spit in our face. My father used to say don’t **** on my shoe and tell me it’s rain. This is what the city has done for eight years, and now she’s fighting back.”
Kenny, who maintains that he killed Robinson in self-defense, is still employed by the Madison Police Department. That’s despite regular calls from community advocates to remove him from the city’s police force.
After around half an hour of speeches last night, folks holding signs stood in the street, fists in the air, for a moment of silence for Tony Robinson. After the moment of silence, supporters began chanting to remind everyone who it was that was killed on Willy Street eight years ago.
Meanwhile, a complaint to use a little-known state statute to investigate and possibly press charges against Kenny is lingering through the courts.
Irwin filed the petition last year, and today, has the support of half a dozen lawyers in the case. It uses a rarely-used state law that says if a DA does not press charges, a citizen can petition a judge to take up the case instead. If that judge finds that there is probable cause that a crime did take place, then a special prosecutor is assigned to the case.
Irwins’s petition questions Kenny’s version of events, pointing to evidence that was not factored by Ozanne but was introduced in the family’s civil rights lawsuit.
Irwin says that this petition is her way of trying to get justice for her grandson.
“We go everywhere we can to find out how citizens can take their justice back without using a gun, without doing the same thing they’re doing,” Irwin says. “We’re going to use your system, your laws, your ways, your rules, and if they aren’t there for us, we are going to make them.”
Last year, a Dane County judge had agreed to take up the case. But after that judge retired in December, the petition bounced between several judges, with seven Dane County judges recusing themselves due to conflict of interests, the Capital Times reports.
The petition is now in the hands of Dane County Judge Stephen Ehlke, who has agreed to take up the case, but has not yet set a new court date.
Lorien Carter, Tony Robinson’s aunt, told WORT this morning that she hopes this lawsuit not only helps the Robinson family find justice, but other families whose relatives were killed by police as well.
“When this happens, and since it’s been happening, it’s going to set a precedent, hopefully, for the rest of the not only the state, but hopefully the country, that other state’s pick up this legislation and pass legislation such as this,” Carter says.
At the end of the day, Sharon Irwin says that she wants the world to know her grandson as she knew him.
“He’s this big, goofy boy. He’s 6’5”, he longboarded everywhere, tried to teach me how to longboard but… He got me to quit smoking cigarettes, he did a lot of things. He knew a lot of people. He liked to talk to people, he liked to be around a lot of people. He was just a happy-go-lucky boy.”
Photos courtesy: Nate Wegehaupt / WORT News Team