MADISON, Wis. -- Relatives of an unarmed black teenager who was fatally shot by a police officer will receive $3.35 million to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit filed in Wisconsin, attorneys announced on Thursday.
Tony Robinson Jr., 19, was shot and killed by Madison police officer Matt Kenny, who is white, in 2015. The shooting sparked protests throughout the city and calls for an examination of police use of force.
Robinson’s attorneys said the deal was the largest police shooting settlement in Wisconsin history. Attorney David Owens called it vindication for parents still grieving the loss of their oldest son.
“If you could bring their son back, would they give all the money back? Absolutely,” Owens said.
City attorney Mike May said the city did not have an immediate comment but might make a statement later. Kenny’s attorney, Jim Palmer, said the settlement was nothing more than a business decision to avoid the costs of trial.
“The Robinson family has made a number of outrageous claims that will now never be resolved,” Palmer said. “The settlement serves to further cast a pall over Matt’s reputation and his service to the community.”
Kenny, the police officer, shot and killed Robinson in an apartment house after responding to calls about Robinson behaving erratically. Kenny said he entered the house to investigate sounds of a disturbance, and Robinson started punching him. Kenny’s attorney said Kenny suffered a concussion, but Owens disputes this.
“There is no way in the universe that this happened the way Matt said it did,” Owens said. “We did the investigation that the city of Madison refused to do. They wouldn’t have paid a dime if they thought they were going to win a trial.”
An autopsy showed Robinson had traces of drugs in his system, including hallucinogenic mushrooms.
Kenny, who fired seven shots, was later cleared of criminal wrongdoing and an internal investigation found he acted within police policies. District Attorney Ishmael Ozanne declined to charge him.
Kenny now works with the department’s training program and horse-mounted patrol unit often used to control crowds. Madison Police Chief Mike Koval said though Kenny has earned the right to return to active patrol, there are no plans for him to do so.
Koval said the settlement has a “chilling effect” on the police department’s reputation, even though it does not include any admission of wrongdoing and has nothing to do with the facts of the case.
“Reasonable people can infer that if the cops had done nothing wrong, why in the world would they have settled for such an astronomical amount?” he said. “But we’re not going to be defined by this settlement. That’s just not how we roll.”