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Shooting of Unarmed Teen in Wisconsin Leads to Protests

A makeshift memorial pays tribute to a 19-year-old black man killed by police, in front of a home cordoned off with barricade tape on Williamson Street in Madison, Wisconsin, March 7, 2015.

Protesters took to the streets in a Midwest college town over the weekend with chants of "Black Lives Matter" following the fatal shooting of an unarmed, African American teenager by a white police officer late Friday.

The shooting sparked demonstrations in Madison Friday and Saturday where the slogan "Black Lives Matter" has become the mantra of demonstrators around the country protesting similar deadly police encounters between white police officers and unarmed black men.

Madison, Wisconsin, Police Chief Mike Koval said 19-year-old Tony Robinson was shot in his apartment Friday night after Officer Matt Kenny, who was responding to emergency telephone calls about battery and someone jumping in and out of traffic, heard a disturbance in Robinson's apartment.

Map of Madison, Wisconsin
Map of Madison, Wisconsin

Koval said Kenny forced his way into Robinson's apartment where the teenager assaulted the police officer, forcing him to draw his revolver and shoot Robinson.

"I can't even compute what has happened," Robinson's mother, Andrea Irwin, said in a statement.

Calls for calm

Police Chief Koval called for "restraint" and "calm" as the Department of Criminal Investigations conducts its probe of the deadly incident in the state capital.

Koval struck a conciliatory tone Saturday while addressing the potential for more protests in Madison, saying he understood the community's distrust after "this tragic death."

"For those who do want to take to the street and protest," Koval said, his department would be there to "defend, facilitate, foster those First Amendment rights of assembly and freedom of speech."

The promise echoed as a stark contrast to Ferguson, Missouri, where an aggressive police response to protesters after the death of another unarmed black teen drew worldwide attention.

Kenny, a 12-year veteran of the Madison police force, has been placed on administrative leave pending the results of the investigation. Kenny was cleared of charges stemming from a 2007 fatal shooting that Chief Koval described as a "suicide-by-cop" situation.

Robinson's killing comes just days after the U.S. Department of Justice issued a report that found patterns of racial profiling, bigotry and profit-driven law enforcement and court practices in the the St. Louis, Missouri, suburb of Ferguson where a white police officer shot unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown last year.

Madison, about 80 miles west of Milwaukee, is the state capital and home to the University of Wisconsin's flagship campus. About 7 percent of the city's 243,000 residents are black.

Nationwide attention

Other deaths of unarmed black men by white police officers resulted in a wave of protests across the country last year.

  • Eric Garner, who died in July after New York City officers put him in a chokehold and a video showed him repeatedly saying, "I can't breathe."
  • A Cleveland police officer in November fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who had been pointing a pellet gun at a playground.
  • A Milwaukee police officer who fatally shot Dontre Hamilton last April was found to have acted in self-defense, but was fired for ignoring department policy regarding mental illness.

Some material for this report came from AP.