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Madison, Wisconsin settles police shooting of unarmed teen for $3.35 million

(Reuters) - The family of a biracial teenager who was fatally shot while unarmed by a white police officer has settled a lawsuit against the city of Madison, Wisconsin, for $3.35 million, the family's lawyers said on Thursday.

Tony Robinson was 19 when he was shot and killed by officer Matthew Kenny in March 2015 at an apartment building where he was visiting friends. His death was one of a series that drove nationwide protests against the use of excessive force by U.S. police against non-whites.

The settlement was the largest ever for a police-shooting lawsuit in Wisconsin, according to Loevy & Loevy, the Chicago law firm representing Robinson's family, which announced the settlement in a statement.

Before the incident, friends had called police saying Robinson was behaving strangely. Kenny, the first officer on the scene, said Robinson punched him in the head repeatedly and that he shot the teen several times out of fear for his safety. A criminal investigation exonerated Kenny of wrongdoing.

The family disputed that account and sued for damages, saying the police violated Robinson's civil rights. The case had been due to go before a jury later this month.

Anand Swaminathan, one of the family's attorneys, said the money would not fill the void left by Robinson's killing.

"But what it does do is it gives them vindication," Swaminathan said.

Jim Palmer, executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, said in a statement on Kenny's behalf that the officer's actions were "lawful and in response to a deadly threat."

"Matt strongly believes that this lawsuit should have gone to trial, and he deeply regrets that he is being deprived of the opportunity to defend himself before a jury of his peers," Palmer said.

The Madison Police Department said in a statement that Police Chief Mike Koval stood behind his officer, who now works in the department's training section, and that the department was not involved in the settlement negotiations.

Koval had hoped the case would go to trial so Kenny could be cleared, the statement added, but the police chief understood that "attorneys, insurance providers and risk managers have reached a business decision based on factors other than the actual facts of the case."

Michael May, Madison's city attorney, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen and Gina Cherelus in New York; Editing by Andrew Hay and Peter Cooney)

 

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