|Vol. 10 No. 10
MAY 14, 2015
Moment of Decision
This is a difficult column to write for a number of reasons. My heart first goes out to Tony Robinson Jr., who died tragically on March 6th. From what I
have read and heard from people who knew him, Tony was basically a good kid who made some bad choices during his brief moment on this earth.
And it seemed that he was also haunted by some inner demons, the inner demons that haunt many people in society, inner demons that have
propelled some people to do great things for humanity.
It appears that those inner demons were in play on March 6. Tony was self-medicating that day. Obviously he was in a lot of pain. While he and his
friends had smoked marijuana that afternoon at a home in Monona, Tony had also taken Xanax and purchase some psilocybin mushrooms or “shrroms”
and took a double dose. It appears that Tony was the only one consuming drugs other than marijuana. Two side effects of Xanax are hallucinations
and the loss of inhibitions. Psilocybin mushrooms are also a hallucinogen. I can’t imagine the kind of overwhelming impact that these drugs in
combination had on Tony’s mental and physical state. It appears that these drugs in combination unleashed Tony’s inner demons and he was
consumed by them.
After making their way back to 1125 Williamson Street #2, it appears that the drugs hit their zenith and Tony lost complete control and began to smash
things in the apartment. The occupants all left the apartment and Tony followed at which time the friend whose apartment they had been at locked
the door. Tony was still out of control and the friend was fearful and concerned about everyone’s safety including Tony’s.
While he was in the parking lot of the gas station across the street, the friend made the first 911 call, which Dane County DA described as follows:
“The first call came in at 6:28 p.m. from a friend of Tony Robinson Jr. who is a resident of 1125 Williamson Street #2,” Ozanne said. “It was reported
that “Tony was tweaking, chasing everybody and is really outrageous right now.” The caller and his girlfriend are scared. Tony is a light-skinned African
American. He is not wearing a shirt, but has a jacket on that is tan in color. It is not believed that Tony is armed. Tony has jumped in front of a car, but
doesn’t appear to be hurt. Tony is chasing the caller as they drive off. Tony had punched another friend prior to this call, but everyone has left as
things are really bad. Tony is going crazy. He took ‘shrooms’ or some type of drugs. The caller said that he couldn’t talk to Tony. He couldn’t get
through to him. Tony is acting insane right now. And it is scaring the caller.”
It appears that Tony had a lot of adrenaline flowing through his veins in addition to the drugs he had taken. He was feeling no pain and he was
It appears that after his friends drove off down the street and Tony gave up the chase, he went back to the apartment after also striking one person and
choking another, which were reported in two subsequent 911 calls. It appears that Tony broke through the front door of the apartment and started
breaking things and smashing the wall.
Officer Kenney was the first to arrive on the scene and had looked around the outside of the house before entering the side door, which is the entrance
to Apartment #2. Apparently once you enter the downstairs door, one immediately reaches a staircase that leads directly to the upstairs apartment.
The door had been smashed in with the deadbolt intact. Tony had broken the whole door.
Kenney radioed in that he was entering the apartment because he heard what he thought was a fight and felt that someone might be in danger. He
walked up the stairs with his weapon drawn and when he was two-thirds of the way up, he announced that he was a Madison Police officer and the
commotion stopped. He heard someone — who was Tony — say “Well, the police are here.” And then Tony came from around the corner and slugged
Kenney in the head with such force that Kenney was slammed into the wall of the staircase causing damage to the wall. It appears that Kenney
backed down the stairs stunned by the blow that he had received. Tony followed him down the stairs and then Kenney shot Tony six times while they
were both in the house at the bottom of the stairs and as Kenney retreated backwards out of the apartment, he shot Tony a seventh time and
apparently it was at that time that Tony collapsed with his feet sticking out of the apartment door. Kenney rendered aid, called for an EMT and
instructed other officers who were on the scene to check for people upstairs.
With all of the facts that were presented to Ozanne through the Department of Justice report and subsequent interviews, the autopsy report and other
evidence — there are some who would argue that he did not have all of the facts — I can understand why Dane County DA Ismael Ozanne ruled that it
was a legitimate use of deadly police force. I know that some people won’t like to hear that and they are welcome to e-mail me and tell me that. But
Ozanne had to follow the letter of the law as the sworn district attorney for Dane County no matter how he may have personally felt.
If Ozanne had ruled any other way, his ruling would have been immediately appealed and most likely overturned — and I hear that Robinson’s family
plans to appeal. As a leader in the community — and leaders have to take unpopular stands at times — Ozanne made a decision based on the
evidence at hand and did not punt the football. He made a decision that is very unpopular with some in the community and they have the right to feel
as they do and nonviolently protest. But I do feel that Ozanne made the proper decision based on the evidence as it relates to criminal charges.
Now the forum shifts to the Madison Police Department’s internal review in terms of whether or not Kenney followed the correct procedure. I have a lot
of questions that need to be answered:
1) After the first 911 call, why weren’t mental health professionals called to help handle the situation?
2) With the information that the first 911 caller provided, one could conclude that Tony was unarmed, that he was out-of-control on drugs and that
the apartment had been vacated because the leasee and his girlfriend had driven away after placing the 911 call. So when Kenney — and hindsight
is always 20/20 — was at the bottom of the stairs, a possible explanation based on the 911 caller’s information was that Tony was upstairs alone busting
up the apartment.
3) When Kenney entered the apartment’s downstairs entrance — a dedicated entrance to this apartment from what I could see — why didn’t he
announce that he was a Madison police officer at that time? Why did he wait until he was near the top of the stairs — and at his most vulnerable spot
— to announce his presence? If he had announced at that point — and the disturbance upstairs stopped as Kenney reported — he could have
determined that Tony was alone since a second party did not continue to scream or what have you. Maybe at that point, other decisions would have
4) It appears that there was at least one other officer on the grounds of the apartment building and perhaps one other in close proximity. Why didn’t
Kenney wait for another officer to join him before going up the stairs as it was reported that Tony was unarmed?
5) Did Kenney follow the police procedures by the book?
I am sure there are a lot more questions that must be answered by the internal police review. And we must have a complete review or community
dialogue on police procedures and policies including when to use deadly force. As I went to different functions this past week, there is a lot of
skepticism out there, particularly in the Black community.
The healing won’t occur until the puss comes out through a community dialogue on the order of what is now happening as it relates to energy due to
the controversy surrounding MG&E’s recent rate restructuring. From there, we can have real give and take through a process run by a third party and
see what types of reform are asked for and what kinds of reform are implemented. This will not end with a DA’s ruling and a police departmental review
of what happened on March 6th.It won’t end there even if governmental leaders say it has.
I hope something positive comes of this so that Tony Robinson Jr. didn’t die a meaningless and tragic death. Let’s hope that it leads Madison forward.