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Decision Not to Charge Police Officer Spurs Protests in Wisconsin

Decision Not to Charge Police Officer Spurs Protests in Wisconsin
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A white police officer in Wisconsin won't be charged for fatally shooting an unarmed 19-year-old biracial man in March. The announcement of that decision Tuesday led to protests in Wisconsin’s capital city of Madison. The victim's family has appealed to the public to keep demonstrations peaceful.

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne told reporters the evidence he reviewed supports officer Matt Kenny’s decision to use lethal force while responding to a disturbance involving Tony Robinson Jr. at this home in Madison the night of March 6. Kenny shot Robinson seven times in the ensuing encounter.

“I conclude that this tragic and unfortunate death was the result of the lawful use of deadly force, and that no charges will be brought against Officer Kenny in the death of Tony Robinson Jr.,” Ozanne said. “My decision will not bring Tony Robinson Junior back. My decision will not end the racial disparities that exist in the justice system, in our justice system.”

The decision to clear Officer Kenny of any charges drew criticism from Robinson’s family.

“When we look at the facts of this case, it’s a 19-year-old kid who is dead, and he was unarmed and a call was placed to help him," said Turin Carter, Robinson's uncle.

Carter told VOA that while he hoped for a different outcome, he isn’t surprised by Ozanne’s decision.

Carter was among family members who gathered not far from the place where the March shooting occurred, to take part in the protest of the decision.

“The overwhelming sentiment is that of just remorse, and frustration with the system,” Carter said.

Though it is not the outcome the family of Tony Robinson Jr. had hoped for, they have appealed to the public who have gathered to protest here in Madison for calm, in an effort to prevent violence and unrest.

There have been numerous protests in Madison since Robinson’s death. All have been peaceful.

So was the protest march by hundreds to the Wisconsin State Capitol hours after the decision was announced.

But Robinson’s grandmother Sharon Irwin said no amount of news coverage of the protests can ease her pain.

"One day I hope you have the opportunity to know who he was because I will miss him the rest of my life when you guys go home and don’t deal with this anymore." she said. "This is a forever thing for me. And I just want to say this is politics, and not justice.”

More demonstrations are planned as attorneys for Robinson’s family say they continue their own investigation into his death.

The shooting of Robinson is the latest in a series of police confrontations that have raised concerns about excessive force and racial discrimination by police.

Riots erupted in the eastern city of Baltimore following last month's death of a 25-year old black man who died from a spinal injury while in police custody. Six police officers involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray are facing criminal charges.

The U.S. Justice Department has said it will investigate possible civil rights violations by the Baltimore Police Department in connection with the case.

A similar federal investigation into last year's fatal police shooting of an unarmed, 18-year-old black man found a pattern of civil rights violations by the Ferguson Police Department in the state of Missouri.

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    Kane Farabaugh

    Kane Farabaugh is the Midwest Correspondent for Voice of America, where since 2008 he has established Voice of America's presence in the heartland of America.