Family Of Tony Robinson Settles Civil Suit Over Killing By Madison Police

Attorneys Say Family Will Receive $3.35M For 2015 Death

Protesters gather outside the apartment where Robinson was shot. Gilman Halsted/WPR

Relatives of an unarmed black teenager who was fatally shot by a police officer in Madison say they have settled a federal civil rights lawsuit for $3.3 million.

Attorneys for the family of Tony Robinson announced the settlement Thursday, saying it was the largest in state history for an officer-involved shooting.

Madison police officer Matt Kenny, who is white, shot the unarmed 19-year-old in an apartment house after responding to calls about Robinson behaving erratically. Kenny was later cleared of criminal wrongdoing and an internal investigation found he didn’t violate any police policies. Robinson’s family filed the civil suit in the aftermath of that ruling.

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Speaking to reporters Thursday morning, Madison Police Chief Koval expressed empathy for Robinson’s family but also defended Kenny and the department.

“No amount of money is ever going to equate with or compensate adequately the loss, the pain and the grief that the Robinson family has to contend with. At best this is a hollow judgment because they will never have the companionship and the love of their son, their grandson, their friend, their brother, their cousin,” Koval said, adding, “Similarly this is an officer who has basically had his career marooned … for the last two years, subject to the court of public opinion. And to that extent, does this have a chilling effect on policing? … Of course it does.”

Koval said he had hoped the civil suit would go to trial because he was confident a ruling would further confirm that Kenny and the department committed no wrongdoing.

In a statement released Thursday afternoon, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said that the settlement agreement was reached between the city of Madison’s insurance carrier, WMMIC, and the Robinson family. Soglin stressed that neither the city nor the city attorney were involved in the settlement, adding that he had concerns about recent rulings in the case.

“I have serious questions about some of the rulings by the court in the last week which may have improperly affected the officer’s ability to defend his actions,” Soglin said.

The Robinson family held a press conference Thursday afternoon at the state Capitol, where Robinson’s grandmother Sharon Irwin said she’s not satisfied with the decision and would have liked to see the case proceed to trial.

“Justice would look like the system working like it’s supposed to,” she said. “Justice would look like him being indicted, and him going to trial and the lawyers giving their evidence, and the jury making a decision.”

Family attorney Anand Swaminathan said they believe the investigation process that determined Kenny did not violate department policy is flawed.

“The internal investigation process in the city of Madison absolutely failed the Tony Robinson family and it absolutely failed the citizens of Madison,” Swaminathan said. “That process needs to be fixed and it needs to be changed, and that’s one of the things that needs to happen going forward.”

The shooting sparked peaceful protests throughout the city and calls for examination of police use of force.

Editor’s Note: This story was last updated Feb. 24 at at 8:35 a.m.