A week after Montay S. Penning was shot and killed by three Beloit police officers, about 20 people gathered Tuesday night in front of the Beloit Police Department to peacefully protest his death.
Police have said Penning, 23, of Janesville, was driving a car that was reported stolen Dec. 10. A Rock County sheriff’s deputy reported seeing the vehicle and hearing shots fired near Henry Avenue and Riverside Drive.
After a brief police chase and foot pursuit, police say Penning was found in the 1800 block of Harrison Avenue and that he was “observed to be armed” before three Beloit police officers fired their weapons, killing Penning.
The Rev. Michael Bell of New Zion Baptist Church in Beloit, who served as a spokesperson for the protesters, said the group gathered to speak out against the official narrative given by police.
“They are saying he had a gun and may have held it against officers. That doesn’t fit his character,” Bell said of Penning. “At this point, nothing has been let out. All we know is that we lost Montay. That’s all we’ve heard and a lot of rumors about the car being stolen and that he may or may not have had a gun, but no answers have been definite.”
The Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Department of Criminal Investigation is investigating. Authorities have declined to comment further on Penning’s death.
Bell said he met Penning in June and that Penning briefly attended life support groups in Janesville before getting jobs at Monterey Mills in Janesville and Generac Power Systems in Whitewater to support his young daughter.
“He wanted to start taking care of his daughter, so he had started making some strides and some good changes, and that’s why we just know it doesn’t fit his character,” Bell said.
Bell added that Beloit is dealing with deep issues of systemic racism.
“It should be stopped,” Bell said. “No one should lose their life just because of the color of their skin, nor should anyone be treated just because of the color of their skin. We should all stand in unity to help each and everyone. That’s what love is about.”
Arrangements for Penning are pending with Foster Funeral Home and Cremation Service, according to a death notice published Monday in the Beloit Daily News. A GoFundMe campaign started last week has raised $355 of a $6,000 goal as of Tuesday night.