Family, police look back one year after Tony Robinson was shot, killed

Sunday will mark one year since 19-year-old Tony Robinson was shot and killed by a Madison police officer.

In the past year, Robinson’s family filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the officer and city. Officer Matt Kenny was cleared of any wrongdoing by both the Madison Police Department and the district attorney.

Due to the pending lawsuit, police were limited about what they could say but did stress the efforts they are taking to keep a similar situation from happening again. At the same time, Robinson’s family is still seeking justice and wanting to see change in police policy.

“When it is a mental health crisis there should be people trained in mental health crisis to come and take care of the situation so things like this don’t happen,” Tony Robinson’s mother, Andrea Irwin, said.

Robinson was on hallucinogenic mushrooms when police say Kenny and the 19-year old got into an altercation that led to the fatal shooting.

While visiting the home on Williamson Street a year later, Irwin sees the impact her son has in the words and candles keeping his memory alive, but is still looking for solutions to prevent a need for another memorial.

“We can’t wait for this to last forever, the next person could lose their life while we are waiting and while we are having these conversations,” she said.

Madison Police Chief Mike Koval said he understands the desire for urgency, but said for successful change to happen it will take time.

“I think that sense of urgency is important, but I think we also have to note that it is going to be a marathon and it’s not a sprint to make these sort of positive or better outcomes take place,” Koval said.

Looking over the past year, Koval said he believes progress is being made between communities of color and law enforcement officers.

“The narrative is not going to be solidified on what occurred on March 6. That’s a snapshot. We need to look at what the relationship can be and will be if together we can heal, create some opportunities for reconciliation and continue to talk,” he said.

In the past year a new city ad hoc committee was formed to review the Madison Police Department.

Koval said the department is reviewing its use-of-force policy. They are also ramping up police training, implementing 21st century policing practices, looking to experts for guidance and working to foster stronger relationships with the community.

“I do think that it definitely fast tracked lets actually look at that policy that MPD is doing or not doing, that will hopefully avoid catastrophic outcomes like we saw,” Koval said.

Many of these policies were formed before March, according to Koval. Still, he agrees more can and should be done to continue the department’s progress.

“We do need to be transparent, and we do need to be held accountable, but we also need to be mindful that we are all in this together and the police as members of this community, working in the community, collectively as partners we want better resolutions like everybody else does,” he said

When Irwin reflects on the life of her son, she hopes the memory of what happened a year ago will promote change for years to come.

“This last year has been difficult in trying to find ourselves, but I think that in the midst of all of this we are going to try to do great things,” she said.