MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Madison's police chief on Monday defended a white officer who killed an unarmed biracial man this month, saying he's a caring person who has repeatedly helped members of the community and that people shouldn't rush to judgment without all the facts.
Officer Matt Kenny shot 19-year-old Tony Robinson during an altercation in an apartment house stairwell earlier this month. The state Justice Department is investigating.
Police Chief Mike Koval wrote on his blog that he has avoided discussing Robinson's criminal record out of respect for the dead man and demanded that people treat Kenny the same way. He said he's outraged that people are judging Kenny based on headlines.
He said he has known Kenny for more than 12 years and called him a "caring, conscientious individual." He noted that Kenny has a college degree and served as a U.S. Coast Guard medic.
Koval stressed that Kenny has received 45 commendations during his tenure, including four citations for rendering critical first aid to citizens. He instructs other officers in first aid techniques and carries a medical bag on all his calls, the chief said.
"He is a consummate professional and committed to selfless service," Koval wrote.
He wrote that people are judging Kenny because he shot and killed a suspect in 2007 in what police called a "suicide by cop" situation. The chief noted that Kenny was fully exonerated in that incident.
The city's black community staged multiple protests last week over Robinson's shooting. The demonstrations were peaceful, although some protesters demanded that prosecutors charge Kenny with homicide.
In his blog posting, Koval questioned what justice means to the protesters, saying one demonstrator told him the only way justice would be served was if Kenny was charged.
"Really?" Koval wrote. "I was hoping for something along the lines that 'justice' is predicated by looking at all the facts before rendering a decision."
Kenny shot Robinson in an apartment house about a mile and a half from the state Capitol on March 6. Kenny forced his way into the building after responding to calls that Robinson had attacked two people and was running in traffic, police said. Robinson, who was convicted of armed robbery last year, attacked Kenny as soon as he entered the building, police said, but they're released almost no other details.
The Wisconsin DOJ took over the investigation hours after the shooting, as per a state law that requires outside agencies to probe officer-involved shootings. The agency expects to complete its work within the next two weeks and to then forward its report to Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne. Ozanne, who is black, will then decide whether to file any charges.
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