Another “Unarmed Black Teenager” Incident in Wisconsin

In Madison, Wisconsin, 19-year-old Tony Robinson was shot and killed by a police officer last Friday evening. Robinson was unarmed at the time. His death has led to the usual protests; this is how the Huffington Post describes a demonstration that took place today:

Almost 2,000 students marched in Madison, Wisconsin on Monday to protest the fatal police shooting of an unarmed biracial teenager, while his family demanded justice and the police chief apologized.

Students crowded into the rotunda of the state Capitol in the morning, chanting and waving signs to protest the death of Tony Robinson, 19, shot on Friday by a white police officer. …

Standing near a memorial of candles and balloons to Robinson, Carter said his family was concerned about “systematic targeting of young black males,” in police shootings. …

Robinson’s death was the latest in a string of police shootings across the country that have intensified concerns of racial bias in law enforcement.

The HuffPo account makes no mention of how or why the shooting happened. This brief Associated Press story contains only the hint of a “confrontation”:

Protesters have jammed the Wisconsin Capitol to demonstrate against a white police officer who killed an unarmed black man.

Scores of protesters, including many area high school students who skipped class, stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the rotunda as well as on the first and second floors.

They chanted “Stand up, fight back, no more black men under attack” and “indict, convict, send those killer cops to jail — the whole damn system is guilty as hell.” Police estimated the crowd at about 1,500 people.

So what did happen? This CNN story covers what is known so far:

The incident started when authorities got a call that a black male was yelling and jumping in front of cars, Madison Police Chief Mike Koval said.

Which sounds like drugs, or maybe drunkenness.

Dispatchers identified him as Tony Robinson, according to 911 audio obtained by WKOW.

A little later, the dispatcher says, “Apparently Tony hit one of his friends. No weapons seen.”

About four minutes later, the dispatcher says, “I got another call for the same suspect at [the same address]. He tried to strangle another patron.”

So that’s at least two people Robinson had assaulted. One more to come.

About 30 seconds later, an unidentified officer says, “Shots fired, shots fired.”

When Officer Matt Kenny went to the apartment, he heard some commotion and forced his way in, Koval said.

“Once inside the home the subject involved in this incident — the same one allegedly out in traffic and that had battered someone — assaulted my officer,” Koval said.

After that, according to the chief, “The officer did draw his revolver and subsequently shot the subject.”

Was Robinson another “gentle giant”? Maybe, but he pled guilty to armed robbery just three months ago.

Here’s the thing: if you assault a police officer, he probably will shoot you. That’s what happened to Michael Brown, too. Some people seem to be under the misapprehension that if you are unarmed, the police officer is obliged to engage you in a fistfight (trusting that you don’t have a gun, knife or other weapon) and see how it turns out. No. He, like any other citizen, is entitled to shoot you if he reasonably apprehends a danger of grave physical harm, and you can be pretty well assured that he will do so. Based on the number of these events recently, is there a “systematic targeting of young black males”? It looks more like there is a systematic targeting of police officers.

Unless something surprising emerges from the investigation, this looks like another case where “justice” won’t be done. The police officer won’t be prosecuted for defending himself, and he may receive a commendation. That, no doubt, will lead to more protests, and maybe the Department of Justice will investigate, too. DOJ could do a lot more good if it conducted an advertising campaign, informing teenagers of all races that if they assault a police officer, they likely will be shot.


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