Wisconsin Examiner

Tosa Police Arrest Cole Family At Protest

Tracy Cole, Alvin Cole's mother, was sent to the hospital for injuries from her arrest.

By , Wisconsin Examiner - Oct 9th, 2020 10:32 am
Police. Photo by Highway Patrol Images / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

Police. Photo by Highway Patrol Images / (CC BY)

Oct.7 proved to be a tense, anxiety-choked day in the City of Milwaukee and its suburban western neighbor Wauwatosa. A crowd of protesters, many local residents among them, gathered outside the Milwaukee City and County Safety Building, where District Attorney John Chisholm shared his decision not to pursue charges in the Alvin Cole shooting with the deceased 17-year-old’s family. The family was inside for nearly three hours before emerging with the news.

Then on Thursday night, things became even more excruciating for the family of Cole. On social media, their lawyer briefly describes the interaction with his mother that happened around 8:30 pm. “They arrested Tracy Cole for peacefully protesting tonight! She ended up in the hospital.” Other accounts, including a Facebook Livestream, recorded the event between Tracy Cole and the police. This contains audio, but not video of the arrest as the phone had been dropped, showing the inside of the car with the reflection of flashing red then blue police lights. Tracy Cole, 48, is heard screaming “Don’t touch me,” multiple times and asking why she is being arrested, then she shouts “I can’t breathe.” A police officer responds that it is state orders and says, “You are under arrest.” A moment later the officer tells her, “You’re going to get Tased.”

She informs the police that she is bleeding and that she thinks her arm is broken as they discuss an ambulance. “My arm is hurting so bad,” she tells the officers in the 18-minute recording. Later the officer asks, “Ma’am, are you able to walk at all?” She says her head is bleeding, and the officer replies, “Well, that’s too bad.”

Later that night, Kimberley Motley, the lawyer representing Cole’s family posted an update on both Alvin Cole’s mother and his two sisters: “Tracy & Tristiana Cole just discharged from the hospital. Outrageous that they were attacked tonight for peacefully protesting!!! Taleavia Cole still missing and police are refusing to provide answers!”

The People’s Revolution, the group that has organized many of the protests in Wauwatosa, put out a statement after the arrest of the three family members reading, in part, “It is despicable that the Wauwatosa Police Department would arrest the members of the family of Alvin Cole, who their officer killed. The police, while arresting Tracy Cole, used such excessive force pulling her out of her vehicle, that she was transported to the hospital by ambulance. … These disgusting acts of police violence, inflicted on the grieving family of victims of police violence, are the clearest example of the abuses of the abuses, injustice, and cruelty we are all marching to end.”

State Rep. David Bowen (D-Milwaukee), who has regularly marched in protests in Milwaukee and Wauwatosa, criticized the arrests on Twitter: “A Mother of a son killed by a officer who previously killed 2 other young men is left tased, a possibly broken arm & a large knot on the forehead. This was a “F you” message to the greater community without actually saying it.” In the thread Bowen added: “Tonight’s over aggressive actions by Wauwatosa Police to arrest dozens of ppl including the 3 sisters & Mother of the slain Alvin Cole, assaulting Mom in the process, a day after his killer was announced not to be charged, were deplorable & clearly an attempt to provoke negativity.”

On Wednesday after the charges were announced, Attorney Motley explained that although Chisholm didn’t charge the Wauwatosa officer who killed Cole in February, he also didn’t defend the shooting. “He did not call the shooting ‘justified,’ Motley told Wisconsin Examiner. “He just said that he can’t prove it [was wrongful] beyond a reasonable doubt, essentially.”

A night of unrest following the announcement resulted in one arrest, broken windows in businesses and homes, and the use of tear gas and rubber bullets by police, but no reported injuries among either protesters or law enforcement.

Cole was killed in February by Joseph Mensah, an officer of the Wauwatosa Police Department (WPD). The 17-year-old, alongside some of his friends, ran from the mall after security responded to an argument among a group of mall-goers. Wauwatosa officers arrived on scene, with Mensah being one of the last to arrive. Motley has highlighted over the past several months that Cole was shot as he surrendered to officers. A handgun was recovered from the scene, which police say Cole fired at them. Motley has countered the narrative of events put forward by WPD.

She puts emphasis on absence of the usual language of a “justified” shooting in this case. “Normally that is the terminology that is used in these situations,” Motley told Wisconsin Examiner, “so the fact that it’s not there is really important. So that’s why we keep stressing that.”

The morning of the decision, Wauwatosa’s Police and Fire Commission (PFC) released a report compiled by an independent investigator which found grounds to fire Mensah for violating department policies in his public statements. The officer had done radio and podcast interviews where he alluded to details of the Cole case, and his two prior fatal shootings over the last five years. A hearing is scheduled on the matter next month, although Motley is pushing for it to occur no later than October 22.

In the meantime, her legal team plans to keep pushing in the case of Cole’s killing. “We’re going to regroup,” said Motley. “We’re going to look at our different options, we’re going to be filing some things pretty quickly. And move forward, and continue to fight. We still believe that Officer Joseph Mensah should be charged with something, with some form of homicide. We still believe that he should be accountable for his actions within the criminal justice system.

Reprinted with permission of Wisconsin Examiner.

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