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Violence, looting erupt in Wisconsin after prosecution clears officer in shooting of teenager

Violence, looting erupt in Wisconsin after prosecution
clears officer in shooting of teenager 1

WAUWATOSA, WI- Violent rioters wreaked havoc on local businesses and residential homes in a suburban neighborhood outside of Wisconsin after prosecutors announced they would not be bringing charges against Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah for the February shooting of 17-year-old Alvin Cole.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that in anticipation of civil unrest, the City of Wauwatosa shut down their City Hall for three days. In addition, Tosa schools shifted to an all-virtual model of learning for the foreseeable future. 

Prior to Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm making the announcement, Wisconsin National Guard troops had already been staged in the area to assist local law enforcement. Within one hour of the announcement, protesters swarmed Interstate 94 in Milwaukee, bringing traffic to a standstill.

Fox News reported that during the civil unrest, police urged residents in the area to shelter in their homes, lock their doors, and move away from their windows. A crowd of reckless demonstrators swept through the area throwing large rocks at law enforcement, smashing windows of residential homes as well as local businesses.

Authorities said they would support the National Guard and mutual aid to establish a protective perimeter around Wauwatosa City Hall. The Wauwatosa Police Department tweeted:

“What started as a protest has become a large disturbance of public order that has caused property damage and is threatening to cause injury to persons. The Wauwatosa Police has ordered dispersal and has not obtained compliance. While not all members of the group intend harm, everyone must disperse immediately. Police are working to disperse this group.”

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Authorities also said that they responded to multiple reckless vehicles on main roads in the area. There were reports of high rates of speed exceeding more than 25 mph over the speed limit, driving on the wrong side of divided highways, and driving over curbs and medians.

In his announcement, Chisholm said:

“In this case, there is sufficient evidence that officer Mensah had an actual subjective belief that deadly force was necessary and that belief was objectively reasonable. I do not believe that the State could disprove self-defense or defense of others in this case and therefore could not meet the burden required to charge officer Mensah.”

The march from Milwaukee to Wauwatosa descended rather quickly from a peaceful protest to a violent one, including vandalism and looting. Independent journalist Brendan Gutenschwager captured video of the looting that took place at a convenience store.

Not content with stealing goods, the violent rioters began destroying property. As the looting continued, a store employee began handing out bags to looters. Looters continued to steal and destroy the convenience store up until the police arrived.

Another video re-tweeted by Julio Rosas shows dozens of people ransacking the store and leaving with whatever they could carry in their arms. Other videos that have circulated social media show violent protesters smashing windows of businesses and public buildings as they marched through Wauwatosa.

Additional videos showed rioters marching down residential streets where they trespassed on private property and vandalized homes. 

This civil unrest comes after the announcement from prosecutor Chisholm and when activists learned that this was the third shooting in five years that has been deemed justified for officer Mensah. Chisholm said in a statement:

“This case is reviewed as a homicide and I apply the same standard of review to this case as I would to any homicide. The standard is to determine in our professional judgement if there is sufficient admissible evidence to convince the trier of fact beyond a reasonable doubt that officer Mensah killed Alvin Cole unlawfully.”

After Chisholm’s announcement, Wauwatosa Police Chief Barry Weber said that the police department agrees with the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office decision and called their investigation a “legal and purposeful review” of the facts. 

Weber also stated that there is still an ongoing internal review of the February incident and that he did not know when it would be completed.

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WAUWATOSA, WI – A Wauwatosa police officer who was cleared in the 2016 justified shooting of Jay Anderson Jr. was suspended on July 15th because Anderson’s family filed a complaint calling for the officer’s termination.

Police Officer Joseph Mensah has been involved in three officer-involved shootings in the past five years, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. 

Those shootings resulted in the deaths of Anderson in 2016 and of Antonio Gonzalez in 2015.

The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office ruled that the fatal shooting of Anderson and the fatal shooting of Antonio Gonzalez in 2015 were both justified self-defense.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel , the third shooting, which took place in February 2020 and resulted in the death of Alvin Cole, is still under investigation.

The Anderson family filed their complaint while Officer Mensah was already on administrative leave pending the investigation of Cole. 

The families of Anderson, Gonzalez, and Cole have the same attorney.

At a virtual meeting of the Wauwatosa Police and Fire Commission on July 15, their attorney, Kimberly Motley, asked for the permanent termination of Officer Mensah on behalf of the Anderson family, WISN reported.

Motley accused the officer of having violated the police department’s code of ethics.  Anderson’s family wants to see Officer Mensah fired and prosecuted.

The Wauwatosa Police and Fire Commission unanimously voted on July 15th to suspend the officer, with pay.  The commission will also be hiring a third party investigator to handle the complaint filed by the family of Jay Anderson Jr.

Mensah is a five-year veteran of the Wauwatosa police force, who is black, and he has been the focus of Black Lives Matter protests in Milwaukee for the past month.

Linda Anderson said the family decided to come forward when they saw the same officer who had shot her son had killed someone else.

Linda Anderson told WPR:

“I would like to see him fired and to do some time for the killings he has done,”

She then goes on to say:

“It is not normal. It is not normal to kill three people. He is a murderer.”

Mensah’s attorney, Jonathan Cermele, told the commissioners that the officer-involved shooting of Anderson had already been investigated four times, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

Milwaukee police, the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and the Wauwatosa Police Department all investigated the incident, Cermele said.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Officer Mensah’s attorney said:

“None of those entities, absolutely none of them, opined that charges of any kind whatsoever were appropriate”

He then went on to say:

“In the end, I am confident that the commission is going to come to the same conclusion that every other investigatory authority has come to, and dismiss this complaint” 

Police Cheif Barry Weber, of the Wauwatosa Police Department released a statement in defense of Officer Mensah, WPR reported.

“In each of the cases involving officer Mensah, those Mensah encountered were armed with weapons. Each incident happened very quickly, and verbal commands were given and not complied with. He defended himself with deadly force” 

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Violence, looting erupt in Wisconsin after prosecution clears officer in shooting of teenager

Chief Weber continued:

“Officer Mensah was placed on administrative leave after each incident, pending the decision of the District Attorney. The rule from the DA was that the use of force was justified in the first two incidents. Mensah is currently on administrative leave while waiting for the DA to rule on the incident from this past February.”

But the attorney for Anderson’s family has called for the previously-closed investigation into Anderson’s death to be re-opened and protesters rallied in front of City Hall ahead of the PFC meeting about the complaint.

Violence, looting erupt in Wisconsin after prosecution clears officer in shooting of teenagerAttorneys for the three families, Deja Vishny (left) and Kimberly Motley, speak to the press at the Wauwatosa Police Department. Photo credit: Scott Ash/Now News Group

Motley told members of the commission during the virtual meeting:

“(Mensah) has become a significant risk to the public at large” 

The district attorney’s report said that Anderson was fatally shot after Officer Mensah stopped to talk to him, when he found his vehicle in the parking lot of Madison Park at 3 a.m. on June 23, 2016.

The report said Officer Mensah saw a handgun that was on the front seat and ordered Anderson to put his hands up, WPR reported.

According to the District Attorney, this is when:

 “lunged toward the gun with his right hand,” 

Officer Mensah opened fire and shot Anderson five times in the head and once in the shoulder, according to WPR.

Wauwatosa police officers do not wear bodycams.

The Anderson’s attorney said that she did not believe he was reaching for his gun, but instead was falling asleep and unable to keep his hands up, citing toxicology results from the autopsy that showed the driver was inebriated.

Motley is quoted as saying:

“Murder does not have a statute of limitations, so I think it is important to re-look at this case, especially because it is the same officer.”

Motley is also the attorney for the family of Gonzalez, who was shot by Officer Mensah on July 16, 2015, when officers responded to a domestic violence call, according to the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Investigative Report.

Gonzalez, 29, greeted the officers in the front yard with a samurai sword, which he brandished as he came toward them.

When Gonzalez continued towards the officers, and failed to obey their orders to drop the sword, Officer Mensah opened fire and fatally shot him, the report said. 

The district attorney found Officer Mensah’s shooting of Gonzalez to be legally justified.

The shooting that is still under investigation occurred on Feb. 2, 2020, when officers responded to the Mayfair Mall for a report of a man with a gun, WDJT reported.

Police said that after a chase, Cole fired at officers with a stolen handgun and Officer Mensah returned fire.

Cole was fatally shot.

The families of all three men are calling for Joseph Mensah to be fired and for all Wauwatosa police officers to be equipped with body cameras.

Attorney Kimberley Motley said in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

“We are going to do everything legally that we can do to make sure that the Cole family gets the justice that they deserve, and that the Anderson family gets the justice that they deserve” 

Since the two earlier shootings were deemed justified and self-defense, Mensah was not charged by prosecutors, nor was he disciplined internally.

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