The state Division of Criminal Investigation is determining what happened before, during and after the fatal police shooting of Tony Robinson two weeks ago.
Prejudging the findings would unnecessarily elevate emotions when facts ultimately should determine the outcome of the probe.
The results are coming soon. Let’s be patient and respectful while this difficult situation — especially for Robinson’s family — approaches more clarity.
Most of all, city and community leaders must continue to encourage peace in our streets — now and far into the future.
Much of what happened in that upstairs apartment and stairwell on Williamson Street the evening of March 6 remains unclear. Robinson was black, 19 and unarmed. Madison police Officer Matt Kenny is white and shot and killed Robinson.
That narrow set of facts shouldn’t prompt heedless cries of “murder.” It should, as it did, prompt emotion and a strong desire for all of the facts.
More than one person reported to police that Robinson was acting strangely before the shooting. Others reported he was violent and speculated some drug use was involved when Robinson reportedly was trying to strangle people. That’s why Officer Kenny was dispatched to the scene. Toxicology tests on Robinson are pending.
Kenny heard a disturbance in the Near East Side apartment and forced his way in, according to Madison police. Police also said Kenny was assaulted by Robinson before the officer fired his gun multiple times.
Nobody knows much beyond those facts. Investigators are still piecing together what happened.
A new state law enacted in 2014 forbids police departments from investigating themselves after an officer-involved shooting. Robinson’s family has said they respect how DCI is proceeding with the investigation.
Not everyone has been so patient.
Brandi Grayson, a leader of the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition that has organized protests, needlessly ratcheted up the emotion at a city meeting Tuesday.
“We know the facts, and when they come out this city will erupt,” Grayson said, addressing Madison Police Chief Mike Koval at the meeting. “This city will effing erupt, and the blood and whatever takes place after that is on your hands and the mayor’s hands.”
Our city definitely must not “erupt.”
We are a city that is struggling with racial disparities in school achievement, incarceration and prosperity. But Madison is not a city that loses control.
Understandably, emotions are running high, especially as the DCI investigation enters another week.
Even Police Chief Koval wrestled with moments of emotion last week when he complained about Madison City Council members failing to defend his department from accusations of “murder.” His comments in a letter to the council followed the meeting where Grayson appeared.
City Council members countered that they couldn’t legally discuss the issue because it wasn’t on their meeting agenda.
Rather than creating more division, Madison’s leaders should stress in a unified way the need for calm and understanding.
Madison should continue on its path of civility while waiting for the DCI to complete its work. While the shooting of Robinson has gained national attention for all the right reasons, so too does Madison deserve praise for its peaceful response to this tragedy.