The Black police officer who fatally shot three people in five years—including Black teenager Alvin Cole—should be fired because the risk he’ll shoot a fourth person is “too great,” an independent investigator’s report has recommended.
Officer Joseph Mensah shot 17-year-old Cole outside the Mayfair Mall in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, on February 2.
Unrest erupted in the city on Wednesday night after Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm announced Mensah won’t be charged over Cole’s shooting because he had reasonable belief that deadly force was necessary.
Chisholm said evidence showed the teenager had run from officers while carrying a stolen 9mm handgun and had fired a shot while fleeing.
The Wauwatosa Police and Fire Commission suspended Mensah with pay in July, and hired Steven Biskupic, a former U.S. attorney, to investigate after a complaint from the family of Jay Anderson Jr., who Mensah fatally shot in 2016. Mensah has appealed his suspension.
In the report released Wednesday, Biskupic found Mensah did not improperly use deadly force in shooting Anderson, but he wrote that he had no choice but to recommend Mensah be terminated because the risk he will fatally shoot a fourth person is “too great.”
Biskupic also found that Mensah violated department policy when he spoke to the media in July.
“Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah has, in the course of his official duties during a five-year period, fatally shot three individuals,” Biskupic wrote in the report.
“The Wauwatosa Police and Fire Commission’s consideration of whether to return Officer Mensah to official duties necessarily involves whether Officer Mensah is empowered to engage in a fourth such shooting in the future pursuant to deadly force policies and procedures.
“Based on the proposed findings and analysis below, I recommend that the Wauwatosa Police and Fire Commission withhold such authorization and affirmatively remove Officer Mensah from active service. The risk and ensuing consequences to the Wauwatosa Police Department and the City of Wauwatosa of a fourth shooting by this Officer are too great for this Commission to find otherwise.”
The Police and Fire Commission, in a statement, confirmed it had received Biskupic’s report.
“The Police and Fire Commission, an independent body, will continue the next steps in their investigatory process. Officer Mensah remains suspended pending completion of the investigation,” the statement added. “As required by state law, this is a paid suspension.”
In a news release after Chisholm’s decision, the Wauwatosa Police Department said Mensah remains suspended pending proceedings with the commission.
In another statement, the police department said it was aware the commission had been provided with Biskupic’s report.
The statement said Wauwatosa Police Chief Barry Weber and his command staff “will carefully review this report; however, the Wauwatosa Police Department will not comment on that matter at this time.”
Mensah wasn’t charged over the death of Anderson in 2016 or the death of Antonio Gonzales the previous year. According to a police incident report, Mensah shot Anderson after coming across him sleeping in his parked car.
Mensah told investigators that he saw a gun in the front passenger seat of the vehicle and opened fire several times after seeing Anderson reaching for it.
In Gonzales’ case, police said Mensah shot the man after he refused to drop a sword.
On Wednesday, Cole’s sister Taleavia Cole said Chisholm was wrong not to charge Mensah and called for the officer’s firing.
“All these Black families walking in here to meet with you about their loved one that has been killed by Joseph Mensah, and you have yet to not justify it. The fight doesn’t end here. We’ve got to make sure Joseph is fired immediately.”
Kimberley Motley, an attorney who represents the Cole family and the families of the other men killed by Mensah, told The Associated Press that Chisholm “did not say that the shooting was justified. And that’s really important.”
Motley said Cole would still be alive if Mensah had been fired earlier.
Motley and Mensah’s attorney have been contacted for comment.