Boots & Sabers

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0615, 10 Mar 15

Let the facts be our guide

My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. Here you go:

Let the facts be our guide

Find the truth before assigning the blame

It has happened again. An unarmed black man has been shot dead by a police officer. This time it happened Saturday afternoon in Madison. Before the victim’s body had assumed room temperature, hundreds of people, including communists and the usual race profiteers, were already marching in the streets and accusing the Madison police of gunning down a black man in cold blood.

Although facts are emerging as I write this column, let us examine the facts we know so far.

Police received a call about a man who was disrupting traffic and had allegedly assaulted at least one person by hitting and choking them. As the police were on the way to the scene, the police dispatcher informed the responding officers that the alleged assailant was named Tony Robinson (no relation).

We know that Robinson was on probation after pleading guilty to felony armed robbery last year. Why Robinson only received probation for armed robbery is a question for another time, but he clearly had a history of violent criminal behavior. It is unknown whether the responding officers knew of Robinson’s criminal history prior to contacting him.

When the officers arrived on the scene, Officer Matt Kenny, a 12-year veteran of the Madison Police Department, radioed that he was forcibly entering an apartment in pursuit of Robinson. Shortly after that, there was a struggle inside the apartment where Kenny was allegedly assaulted and injured by Robinson. Kenny then shot Robinson, who later died at the hospital from his injuries. Police have said that Robinson was unarmed at the time of the shooting. Robinson is black. Kenny is white.

The sensible and humane response to the events of Saturday is to pray and grieve. While Robinson’s poor decisions and behavior on that day were likely the cause of his death, his death is still tragic. His family is rightfully in mourning and deserves compassion. At the same time, Kenny deserves compassion too. Even if the investigation reveals that Kenny was fully justified in killing Robinson, it is no small thing to take another person’s life. Kenny will live with the consequences of his decision for the remainder of his life.

With those few details, and even before some of those details were known, some people have already tried and convicted Kenny and the Madison Police of murder and racism. Brandi Grayson, a spokesperson for a group called the Young, Gifted, and Black Coalition, a group that advocates for the police to have no interaction with black people in Madison, said at a protest, “we have a black boy, viciously murdered by MPD, they immediately framed it as if he provoked the murder — and as if he deserved the murder.”

Such inflammatory and irresponsible rhetoric is designed to take political advantage of Robinson’s death by stirring racial hatred. Subversive groups are also using Robinson’s death to foment hatred and discord in order to advance their ideological agendas. Signs from the Socialist Workers’ Party were prominent at the protests, which is not too surprising in Madison.

Since there will always be charlatans and unscrupulous people seeking to take advantage of tragedies, it is all that much more important for sensible and thoughtful people to call out and resist such chicanery. We must let the facts be our guide to the truth, and then let the truth inform our decisions.

Thanks to a law passed last year that requires an outside agency to investigate officer-involved deaths, the Wisconsin Department of Justice is charged with investigating the killing of Tony Robinson. Over the next few weeks, agents will be sifting through physical evidence and witness testimonies to gather the facts of what happened on Saturday afternoon in that apartment. From those facts, we will likely be able to discern the truth. Those seeking to make judgments before they know the facts are not interested in the truth.

Until the investigation is complete and the facts are clearly known, let us use our time to reflect and pray for those who have been directly impacted by the killing of Tony Robinson. All lives matter.

(Owen Robinson is a West Bend resident.)


0615, 10 March 2015


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