MADISON, Wis. (AP) – A white Wisconsin police officer was exonerated Wednesday by an internal investigation into his fatal shooting of an unarmed 19-year-old biracial man, a move that follows prosecutors declining to file charges and clears the way for him to go back to work.
The Madison Police Department issued a summary of its finding that Officer Matt Kenny did not violate its deadly force policies in the March 6 shooting death of 19-year-old Tony Robinson. The conclusion of the internal examination comes one month after Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne decided not to charge Kenny in the case.
Kenny, a 12-year veteran, has been on paid leave since the shooting.
“He’s looking forward to working, to getting back and doing the job he loves,” said Kenny’s attorney Jim Palmer, who is also executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association. Palmer said he spoke with Kenny, who was “pleased” with the decision.
Robinson’s mother, Andrea Irwin, reacted angrily.
“They have decided to let a murderer back on the street,” she said in an email to The Associated Press.
“I am extremely upset about him getting to go back to a civil service position. The police department is not telling the whole story and the story they are telling is completely untrue.”
A one-page summary of the investigation did give details on how the department reached its conclusion, but Chief Mike Koval said it showed no policies were violated. At a news conference, he referenced not just the department finding but the state investigation that preceded Ozanne’s decision.
“If everybody’s concerned about the appropriateness of the use of deadly force, I think that question has now been unequivocally answered in two different reviewing capacities,” Koval said.
Koval said Kenny will receive psychiatric counseling and be eased back into work by first assisting with training for delivering first aid and the mounted horse patrol.
There is no timeline for when Kenny will resume his previous work as a street patrol office. Koval said it’s not in the best interests of Kenny, officers who back him up or the community to rush his return to the street. But Koval stressed that Kenny, 46, will not be forced to retire, resign or accept a desk position.
“To those who say I should relocate him, I really don’t have a branch office in Butte, Montana, like the FBI,” Koval said. “Nor would I banish him to such. He is a viable member of the Madison Police Department.”
Threats have been made against both Kenny and the Robinson family.
Kenny is reviewing the internal investigation report, as is allowed under the law, and will allow the Police Department to release it as early as Thursday, Palmer said. Kenny has not spoken publicly since the shooting.
Chris Ahmuty, executive director of the ACLU of Wisconsin, said the department’s policies or investigations are deficient. Ahmuty, citing the fact that four other people have been shot and killed by Madison police since 2012, called for an investigation of how the department reviews such incidents to determine if its process is credible.
Kenny shot and killed Robinson in an apartment house stairwell after Robinson, who was high on hallucinogenic mushrooms and had accosted others that night, struck the officer in the head. Kenny said he was worried Robinson would knock him down the stairs, take his gun and shoot him. Kenny told an investigator he couldn’t use nonlethal force because of “space and time considerations.”
Protests after the shooting, and Ozanne’s decision not to criminally charge Kenny, have been peaceful, unlike some demonstrations that followed the high-profile deaths of black men in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore in the past year.
Kenny was also involved in a 2007 fatal shooting and was cleared of any wrongdoing in that case.
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