Live

Watch CBSN Live

Killings by police "an epidemic," victim's mother says

MADISON, Wis. -- Almost two weeks after Tony Robinson was shot and killed by a police officer in Madison, Wisconsin, the 19-year-old's family said Thursday they were struggling to make sense of what happened.

Robinson, whose mother is white and father black, died March 6 after an alleged altercation with veteran police officer Matt Kenny, who was investigating a disturbance call. The teen was not armed at the time.

andrea-irwin-tony-robinson-with-photo.jpg
Andrea Irwin speaks with CBS News about her son, Tony Robinson, as a photograph taken at his high school graduation hangs nearby, March 19, 2015, in Madison, Wisconsin. CBS News

In her first network interview, Andrea Irwin told CBS News the time since her son's death has been "horrible -- every mother's worst nightmare. I feel like I'm in a dream and I just want to wake up."

Fixing Ferguson

Other women who have lost children to violence have reached out to Irwin, who said it was "a club I never wanted to join." Their support has been "some of the most comforting" at a time when "I don't even understand what I'm going through," she said.

"I'm hoping for some form of change so that this doesn't have to be me, speaking to another mother a year from now, having to try and help her cope with what's going on," Irwin said.

If she had the chance to speak with Kenny, Irwin said she would want to know why events transpired the way they did.

"What was his reason for taking my son's life?" Irwin asked. "What exactly was it that made him feel like that was his only option, that there was no other option? And for it to be death, and to impose that sentence on my son."

How do we solve America’s racial issues?

Wisconsin's Department of Justice is investigating the shooting, the latest in a string of killings by police nationwide that have stirred protests and racial passions. Demonstrations in Madison have been peaceful, which Robinson's family has urged.

"This is not an isolated event and it's a systematic issue, as it pertains to the procedures that the police force are using against unarmed teens, and more specifically -- because of the disproportionate numbers -- black unarmed teens," his uncle, Turin Carter, told CBS News.

Robinson was "your average 19-year-old kid," according to Carter, who said, "We do not paint Tony as a saint or someone who has never done anything wrong."

According to CBS affiliate WISC-TV, court documents connected with a 2014 armed robbery conviction of Robinson show he had been diagnosed with ADHD, anxiety and depression, and was prone to boredom and anger.

Madison protests grow after police shooting of unarmed teen

At the same time, Carter said, Robinson was "the face of America."

"I think that our family dynamic shows that this is a universal issue, because we are not a family of just one race. We are a family of many races," Carter explained. "You can not say that this just affects Tony Sr. (Robinson's father), and not my sister Andrea ... and you cannot just say this affects me and doesn't affect my mother. This affects everybody of all races and all creeds."

Irwin has met with Madison Police Chief Mike Koval and said investigators are keeping her informed about their progress.

"I know that I cannot point my finger at many for the act of one," she said. "I think that the police need to reevaluate their procedures as a whole, and something needs to change. People cannot keep dying, you know? I think the police have been -- the chief has talked to me and the police have been open thus far to talking about some form of a change in just the procedures in general."

Irwin said the issue goes beyond the individual victims whose names have become well-known.

Anger and grief after police kill unarmed teen in Madison

"This is extensively more in-depth than just the few that we know of," she said. "And it's heartbreaking to know that all these children are dying, and they shouldn't be. They're not even allowing them to live their lives or start their lives. This is -- what it seems to me is an epidemic, the slaughtering of children. And no answers behind it, no retribution."

According to Irwin, Robinson's memory is helping her to cope.

"My son keeps me going, and I need to make sure that he didn't die for nothing, he didn't die in vain," she said. "My son is my complete and total motivation. Every morning, I wake up and I say to him, 'I'm not going to forget you, I won't let anybody forget you, and we will make some changes. I won't let you have died on that porch for no reason at all.'"

View CBS News In