Wisconsin lawmaker says she saw events ahead of fatal police shooting

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 07, 2015 10:55 AM

By Alex Dobuzinskis

(Reuters) - A Wisconsin lawmaker who co-wrote a bill to require state investigations of all police shootings has said she witnessed incidents that led up to the killing of an unarmed black man by a Madison officer.

The Friday evening shooting, which triggered protests, marked the latest in a string of incidents that have placed U.S. law enforcement agencies under scrutiny over the use of lethal force, especially against minorities, the poor and the mentally ill.

The Madison incident unfolded as a police officer was responding to calls reporting a man was dodging cars in traffic and had battered someone, the city's Police Chief Mike Koval told reporters late on Friday.

The officer followed the 19-year-old African-American suspect into an apartment. Once inside, the officer was struck in the head by the suspect and "in the context of mutual combat" shot the teenager, Koval said.

State Representative Chris Taylor, who said on Facebook she observed what led up to the shooting, is the co-author of a bill signed into law last year that requires outside investigators under the direction of the Wisconsin Department of Justice to probe officer-involved shootings. Her office has said it was the first law of its kind passed in the country.

"Earlier this evening I pulled into the gas station on Williamson Street, simultaneously there were some incidents across the street that resulted in an officer-involved shooting," Taylor wrote.

"It was an unspeakable tragedy," she added. "I'm heartbroken for everyone involved and for my community. I've been informed that the Department of Justice's division of criminal investigation is on its way to the scene."

Taylor's post on Facebook gave no further details on the shooting and she did not return an email seeking comment.

Videos on social media showed around 100 protesters at the scene chanting slogans in front of a row of officers.

Koval said he understood why the incident upset some people, which he said was "absolutely appropriate under the circumstances," but urged restraint.

"We can certainly grieve the loss of a young man's life but I don't know if grief is benefited by scorn, threats of violence," he said.

Last year, the deaths of two unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City triggered a nationwide wave of demonstrations against the use of excessive force by law enforcement.

The Wisconsin State Journal newspaper reported that friends of the teenager identified him as Anthony "Tony" Robinson.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Andrew Roche and James Dalgleish)