Stop me if you’ve heard seen this one before: the now tiresome and wholly predictable cycle of news coverage when a white police officer shoots and kills an unarmed black teenager:

Step 1: Build the false narrative. Mainstream media outlets report that a police officer has shot an unarmed black teenager, and provide extensive coverage of the victim’s grieving family alongside flattering photographs and background stories of said teenager. The event is followed within hours–hours!–by well-organized protests, family spokespersons, and (naturally) lawyers (these last two typically combined).

Step 2: Watch the false narrative implode.  These mainstream media reports are inevitably followed by factually correct and comprehensive reports of the victim’s violent and criminal background and actions at the time of the shooting. These facts place responsibility for his death squarely on the victim’s own shoulders, and make it clear that the police acted appropriately.

Sounds familiar, right? In case you’ve not yet had enough of that cycle, allow me to introduce you to the late Tony Robinson, the “unarmed black teenager” who was shot and killed by a veteran Wisconsin police officer this past Friday evening (so, not even 48 hours prior to the writing of this post).

Step 1: Build the False Narrative

Let’s take a look at  how NBC covered this shooting in a post headlined: Black Teen Tony Robinson Shot Dead by Cop in Madison, Wisconsin, Was Unarmed. First, their lede:

The 19-year-old black man who was shot dead Friday during a confrontation with a police officer in Madison, Wisconsin, was unarmed, police said Saturday.

A “confrontation,” eh? How wonderfully passive.  Zero indication of whether this confrontation might have been the responsibility of the black man or the police, except for the observation that the black man was unarmed–so, right in the first sentence they’ve established the ” cop shoots unarmed black teenager” narrative with which we’ve grown so tiresomely familiar.

Then we learn in the second paragraph that the family has, within hours of their son’s death, retained an official spokesman, who appropriately for his job description simply oozes sympathy for Robinson’s family:

“It’s a challenging time for this family right now. To lose a son, especially the way they lost a son,” said the family spokesman, Michael Johnson.

But, hey, let’s not just stop with an official spokesman–if you don’t have protests going, you’re just not keeping it real.  Again, within hours of the shooting:

The shooting took place Friday at about 6:30 p.m., Madison police said, and sparked protests, including a sit-in at Madison City Hall.

The NBC piece references a statement made by Police Chief Mike Koval.  Koval states that the officer involved, Matt Kenny, had been responding to a call of a black man jumping in and out of traffic, and who was also suspected of an earlier battery.  Kenny responded to the scene, was attacked by the black man, and “During the confrontation, the officer drew his weapon and shot the suspect.” Kenny immediately began to provide first aid to Robinson, including CPR, to no avail.

Interestingly, the NBC piece then spends a full four paragraphs referring to a previous shooting in which Officer Kenny was involved.  In that case, the police had received a “man-with-a-gun” call which was later determined to have been made by the eventual victim in a “suicide-by-cop” ploy.  When police arrived the victim pointed a realistic-looking air pistol at them and Kenny engaged him with fire.  The officer was cleared of any wrongdoing.

Continuing to follow the apparently formalized script for covering such events, NBC then provides a number of glowing quotes about the apparently angelic shooting victim:

Sharon Irwin, Robins’s grandmother:   “He was a beautiful, beautiful soul and everybody that knew him knew that.”

Robinson’s aunt, Lorien Carter: “This is the type of child that you wanted to have in your life because he made it better.”

Family spokesman Michael Johnson: Robinson was a “loving and caring young man,” who we also learn was “about to” attend a local technical college.  Can I get a “he was turning his life around”?

Tony Robinson graduate shot

Police Chiefs being the political creatures they are, Madison Chief Koval appears to plant himself firmly on the side of the false narrative, as NBC reports that he encouraged local residents to peacefully “tell me squarely how upset they are with the Madison police department.” Chief Koval clearly intends to protect his job against whatever political tsunamis that may arrive. He’s not about to put himself and his department in the DOJ bullseye if he can help it:

Conclusion:  Tony Robinson was a beautiful, loving, caring unarmed black teenager who made life better, who despite being unarmed was mysteriously shot dead in confrontation by a white police officer.

Watch the next step, it’s a doozy.

Step 2: Watch the False Narrative Implode

Curiously, the NBC piece on Robinson’s shooting managed to leave out a considerable amount of context, context that any reasonably person would likely find relevant to understanding the truth of what happened.

Fortunately, The Smoking Gun blog was helpful enough to provide us with this relevant context: Wisconsin Shooting Victim, 19, Was Convicted Last Year For Role In Armed Home Invasion.

It is notable how different this headline is than that offered by the NBC piece, which you’ll recall was: Black Teen Tony Robinson Shot Dead by Cop in Madison, Wisconsin, Was Unarmed.

Also notable is that The Smoking Gun piece was published on Saturday, March 7, the day after the shooting–whereas the NBC piece appears, from indications on the post’s page, to have been published in the early morning hours of Sunday, March 8–after the publication of the The Smoking Gun post. Yet the NBC post contains little of the relevant information contained in The Smoking Gun’s post.

So, what do we find in The Smoking Gun post that was left absent from the NBC piece?  As we did with the NBC piece, let’s start with the lede:

The unarmed Wisconsin teenager who was shot to death last night during a confrontation with a Madison cop pleaded guilty last year to armed robbery and recently began serving a three-year probation term for that felony conviction, court records show.

Wait, what?  The “beautiful, loving, caring” Tony Robinson, “who made life better,” was a convicted armed robber and home invader?  A crime to which he pleaded guilty only five months ago, this past October?

Tony Robinson mug shot

And what does The Smoking Gun have to say about the mysteriously passive “confrontation” described by NBC?

According to police, an officer responded Friday to a 911 call about a man who had assaulted a victim and was dodging cars in traffic. The cop followed the suspect into a nearby apartment, where the man allegedly struck the officer in the head, knocking him to the ground. During an ensuing struggle, patrolman Matt Kenny fatally shot the suspect.

So, Robinson was a suspect for both disorderly conduct and battery when Officer Kenny was tasked to the scene, and was appropriately subject to a police response and arrest.

At this point Robinson could, of course, have complied with his lawful arrest, but instead he choose a different path:  he struck Officer Kenny in the head, knocked him to the ground, and fell upon the officer while he was down.  It was under these circumstances that the officer shot and killed the “beautiful, loving, caring” convicted armed robber Tony Robinson.

Anyone want to wager that we’ll soon learn Robinson was a student of the Mike Brown School of Grabbing A Cop’s Gun?

Despite all this, The Smoking Gun post notes that Robinson’s mother, Andrew Irwin, told reporters (presumably with a straight face) that:  “My son has never been a violent person. And to die in such a violent, violent way, it baffles me.”

Is it possible she did not know that her son was an armed robbery convict?

The Smoking Gun has also apparently heard of some social networking platform they refer to as Facebook, whatever that is, and on which Tony Robinson maintained an account.

From there we learn–with no little irony–that Robinson was particularly perturbed by the recently released Department of Justice report clearing MO Police Officer Darren Wilson of all wrongdoing in the shooting death of Mike Brown.

We also learn that Robinson routinely referred to himself using the name “Tony Montana,” most familiar as the name of a fictional hyper-violent drug dealer character from the movie “Scarface.”  It’s worth noting that a prominent scene in the movie involves Montana cold-bloodedly shooting a police officer to death.

Robinson also described himself as a “Real nigga from the start till the casket shut.” I leave the interpretation of that statement to others.  (Update 3/9/15: Robinson’s Twitter account can be found here: @_Tonyy_Montana_· It is most definitely NOT safe for work, and includes a great deal of explicitly pornographic content. You have been warned.)

This past December, in reference to the arrest that resulted in the death of Eric Garner in New York, Robinson wrote: ““The only thing cops are getting trained for is to shoot first and ask questions later.”

Especially, I suppose, if you violently resist arrest, strike an officer in the head hard enough to knock him down, and attack him while he’s down. Indeed, a loud noise may follow.

Looking Forward

The propaganda value of these tragic events seems to be continually diminishing as the false narratives implode ever more proximately to the events themselves–here, within hours.  The sooner the false narrative can be exposed, of course, the less human and property damage will result.

Hopefully Madison WI can avoid being sacrificed to the mobs a la Ferguson.

As a parting thought:  Why is it that these events are never described by the headline: “WI Police Officer Successfully Saves His Own Life From Vicious Criminal Attack”?

Things that make you go, hmmmm.

–-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense


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Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and the author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition,” available at the Law of Self Defense blog (autographed copies available) and Amazon.com (paperback and Kindle). He also holds Law of Self Defense Seminars around the country, and provides free online self-defense law video lectures at the Law of Self Defense Institute and podcasts through iTunes, Stitcher, and elsewhere.