Jeramey Jannene

District Attorney Won’t Charge Tosa Police Officer

Chisholm declines. But investigator hired by Wauwatosa recommends officer be fired.

By - Oct 7th, 2020 04:57 pm
Joseph Mensah. Photo from gofundme.

Joseph Mensah. Photo from gofundme.

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm is not advancing criminal charges against Wauwatosa police officer Joseph Mensah for the on-duty killing of Alvin Cole.

Chisholm announced his decision late Wednesday afternoon.

The 17-year-old Cole was shot and killed by Mensah in the parking lot outside the Cheesecake Factory restaurant at Mayfair Mall on February 2nd. Cole was alleged to be involved in a disturbance at the mall with friends and responding officers were warned that one of the individuals was possibly armed.

The February incident was not captured on a body camera. Cole, according to officers at the scene, fired a single shot. But Cole’s family and their lawyer Kimberley Motley dispute that and say Cole had already surrendered, and was shot while on his hands and knees. Their belief, and one echoed by an independent report, is that the weapon was fired accidentally after being removed from a fanny pack.

Mensah was on the scene for less than 30 seconds and was the only officer to fire a weapon. Mensah said that Cole pointed the weapon at him.

The officer has killed three people in the line of duty, Antonio Gonzales in 2015, Jay Anderson, Jr. in 2016 and Cole in February. In each incident, the District Attorney’s office has investigated the shooting and cleared him of wrongdoing.

Mensah is Black. Anderson and Cole were also Black.

The officer was suspended with pay on July 15th, a decision he has publicly fought. A crowdfunding campaign, with donations from multiple public safety unions, raised over $78,000 for a legal defense fund for the officer.

Protests for racial justice that have run for over 100 days since early May repeatedly targeted Wauwatosa because of Mensah. In August the officer was involved in a protest outside his Wauwatosa home. A weapon was discharged with conflicting stories between Mensah and protesters, including a state representative, on who caused the gun to fire. As of October, he was reported to be living in Greenfield.

Meanwhile, an independent consultant to the Wauwatosa Police & Fire Commission recommended Wednesday that Mensah be fired for “just cause.” The report, authored by former U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic, says Mensah made inconsistent and misleading statements to the media and could use deadly force a fourth time. Mensah poses “unnecessary risk to the Wauwatosa Police Department and the City of Wauwatosa,” wrote Biskupic.

Biskupic’s report found that Mensah did not improperly use deadly force.

None of Mensah’s shootings were captured on body cameras because the Wauwatosa Police Department did not have such equipment at the time of the incidents for any officers but motorcycle patrols. As a result of the protests in the city, the city is advancing a plan to equip every officer with a camera.

In anticipation of potential unrest following Chisholm’s decision, Wauwatosa officials requested support from the Wisconsin National Guard. Governor Tony Evers granted the request, and told the press Wednesday afternoon that he did not know what Chisholm’s decision was. The Wauwatosa Police Department building was barricaded on Wednesday, and a number of businesses were boarded up. The Wauwatosa School District converted to virtual instruction for the last three days of the week. Mayfair Mall closed early. The Milwaukee County Courthouse, in downtown Milwaukee closed early, as a crowd gathered outside of the adjacent Safety Building awaiting news of Chisholm’s decision.

Recent protests in Milwaukee, with the exception of the incident outside Mensah’s home, have been overwhelmingly peaceful. But overnight protests in Kenosha in August that followed the recorded shooting of Jacob Blake by a Kenosha police officer resulted in substantial property destruction. An Illinois teenager crossed state lines and killed two protesters. He has been charged with homicide.

More about the 2020 Racial Justice Protests

Read more about 2020 Racial Justice Protests here

More about the Case of Officer Joseph Mensah

Read more about Case of Officer Joseph Mensah here

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