A Look at What’s Happening in Wauwatosa

Here’s what happened in Wauwatosa last night.

Joseph Mensah, the Wauwatosa police officer who has shot and killed three people while on the job is is not being charged with a crime in the most recent of those shootings: that of 17-year-old Alvin Cole on Feb. 2 outside Mayfair Mall.

Of the decision, District Attorney John Chisholm wrote “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.” 

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Alvin Cole

Still, Mensah may still be fired from the force. Former U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic reviewed the case and has told the Wauwatosa Police Department that Mensah should not remain on the force, writing that having Mensah stay on as a police officer increases the odds of a fourth deadly shooting occurring and pointing out that Mensah had misled investigators, thus negating his ability to serve as a reliable witness in court — as law enforcement officers are often asked to do.

Wauwatosa Police Chief Barry Weber said the internal review of whether Mensah violated department policies or procedures remains ongoing, with no timetable for its conclusion.

Cole, according to police, had been displaying a gun during an argument with someone at Mayfair Mall. When confronted by officers outside the mall, he ran, and during the foot chase, took out a pistol and accidentally shot himself in the arm. He fell to the ground and did not follow officers’ orders to drop the gun before Mensah fired the fatal shots, according to law enforcement. Mensah and the other officers told investigators Cole pointed the gun at them before Mensah fired. 

A decision on whether Mensah will be fired is likely months away. And it’s already been more than eight months since Cole was killed.

Protesters descended on Wauwatosa and Milwaukee ahead of and following the decision being announced Wednesday. Arrests were made prior to sundown near an on-ramp to I-94 in Downtown Milwaukee and property damage occurred throughout the area, although some demonstrators tried to stop the damage when it was being directed at residences.

Damage on Thursday morning was concentrated on the corner of Swan Boulevard and North Avenue. There, windows were smashed at the  Kumon early childhood learning center, Joy Cleaners, Wallpaper Wallpaper, Swan Serv-U Pharmacy and Colectivo Coffee. A single window was broken at Miss Molly’s Cafe & Pastry Shop on Swan and Center Street. And a Speedway gas station was looted at 92nd Street and Burleigh Street in the Milwaukee city limits.  

Many business windows along Tosa’s business district on North Avenue were boarded up, but many windows that were not secured remained intact Thursday morning.

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Adam is a journalist who recently returned to his Wisconsin home after graduating from Drake University in December 2017. He interned with MilMag in the summer of 2015 and has been a continual contributor ever since. Follow him on social media @Could_Be_Rogan