“19” is a documentary from director Tim Poehlmann-Tynan about the events surrounding the police killing of 19-year old Tony Robinson, Jr. Shortly after 6 pm on March 6, 2015, friends of Tony placed the first 911 call seeking police assistance for their friend who was acting erratic and needed help. Officer Matt Kenny was the first to arrive at the unlit address on Williamson Street. 19 seconds after Officer Kenny entered the house, Kenny shot Tony seven times at close range. This film is the result of a thorough and exhaustive investigation into those fateful moments between the first 911 call and the District Attorney’s controversial decision not to indict Officer Kenny.
In addition to the investigation, “19” also documents the media portrayals of Tony, his family, Officer Kenny, and the Madison Police department. The media footage and frames invite a critical look into the biases that provide that cultural context for tragic deaths like Tony’s. Since the March 6 killing, racial disparities in Wisconsin–and Madison in particular–have gained renewed attention by investigative publications and the FBI. Madison Police arrest records show a dismal pattern in the way young black people are treated by law enforcement. For example, in 2013, Madison police arrested over 1000 of the city’s 3200 black youth (age 10 – 17), or roughly 1/3 of the black youth population. This statistic alone places Madison at the top of the nation’s list of racially inequitable cities when it comes to law enforcement.
Tony’s death did not happen in a bubble. The fact that Tony was unarmed and black places his death within the larger national epidemic of police brutality without accountability and an unfair use of of force. Tony Robinson, Jr. joins Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and Freddy Gray and other victims of a police culture that place young black men at deadly risk to police killings 9 times more than young white men (2015).