Wauwatosa, WI – The Milwaukee County district attorney sent a letter to the police chief and released video evidence from the investigation that led to no charges against Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah for fatally shooting 17-year-old Alvin Cole.
“In this case I must view all the circumstances that inform the decision by Officer Mensah to use force,” Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm wrote in a letter to Wauwatosa Police Chief Barry Weber on Oct. 7.
“What I can determine from all the evidence is that Alvin Cole was in possession of a stolen 9mm pistol that day. Mr. Cole should not have been in possession of a firearm for any lawful reason which may have been why he fled from police,” the prosecutor wrote.
“He had that pistol concealed in a sling bag that he brought to Mayfair Mall,” Chisholm continued. “He was involved in an argument in the Mall with another patron and displayed the firearm, which again, may be why he fled from police. He was encountered Wauwatosa Police in the parking lot of Mayfair Mall, ran from the police, discharged the firearm and was ordered to surrender the weapon.”
“He did not surrender the weapon and in fact, according to the officers, pointed the weapon at them,” the district attorney added.
“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,” he concluded.
Activists were outraged that Officer Mensah wasn’t immediately charged and pointed out that Chisholm didn’t use the word “justified” to describe the Cole shooting.
However, a justified shooting is a shooting where there is insufficient evidence to pursue criminal charges.
A summary at the start of the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Police Tribune, broke down the facts in a direct manner.
But the letter also included a link to a carefully curated video compilation from dashcam footage and a detailed account of exactly what happened on Feb. 2 when Cole was fatally shot by Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah.
Chisholm explained later in his letter that Cole shouldn’t have had a weapon because he was underage and because he “was prohibited from possessing firearms because of felony juvenile adjudications,” meaning the 17-year-old had been convicted of more than one felony.
The investigation found that Cole had posted pictures of himself showing off the gun with its extended magazine on social media the night before he was fatally shot.
Surveillance videos from the Mayfair Mall and Nordstrom showed that Cole was wearing a sling bag that contained a stolen 9mm Smith & Wesson handgun with an extended 30-round magazine.
The witness whom Cole argued with in the mall told investigators he was laughing with friends about something unrelated when the teen overheard them and became upset, thinking that the group was laughing at him.
That’s when Cole pulled a cell phone out of the sling bag across his chest and the witness said he made a joke about him keeping his phone in a purse, according to Chisholm’s letter.
The witness told investigators that Cole and his friends followed him and then confronted him, with Cole displaying the pistol from the opening of the sling bag.
“[Witness] stated he then saw the person start to pull a firearm out of the fanny pack. [Witness] told him that he was not afraid and that he should go home because he was kid,” the statement read.
And then Cole pulled the gun further out of the bag and the witness could see it had green sights and an extended magazine.
The video released by the police chief showed the witness told investigators he was bigger than Cole and thought he could grab the weapon away from the 17 year old but then Mayfair Mall security intervened and told both parties to leave the mall.
Cole and his entourage left and the witness told security that the teen was carrying a gun.
The video showed Mall security called Wauwatosa police and reported a disturbance at the mall involving an armed man in the parking lot.
The first officers on the scene encountered Cole and his friends in the parking lot and tried to detain Cole based on his description from security, but the teens fled on foot.
Officers and mall security pursued the suspects and an analysis of the dashcam video and audio recordings showed most of what happened after enhancement and analysis with synced audio recordings.
In the video, a gunshot is heard just before one of the officers catches up with two of the suspects and orders them to the ground.
Investigators believe Cole may have unintentionally fired the weapon he was carrying as he ran from police, according to the investigative documents.
That’s when enhanced video showed Cole went to his knees on the ground.
The three officers who were closest to the shooting told investigators that Cole pointed his gun over his shoulder or under his arm at them from his kneeling position, according to the report.
Officer Mensah yelled “the gun is out” at the other officers and a second later opened fire on Cole, shooting five rounds.
The investigation showed that after Cole was on the ground, he refused to relinquish his gun, despite repeated commands from officers.
It also said one of the officers told investigators that Cole wouldn’t give up his weapon until he kicked it out of his hand.
In the video, the officer can be heard kicking the gun away from Cole, according to the district attorney’s letter.
“He did not surrender the weapon and was fired upon by Officer Mensah causing his death,” Chisholm’s summary to the police chief concluded.
Police recovered Cole’s weapon at the scene, the investigation report said.
There was one spent round in the chamber and the loaded extended magazine was in the sling bag, but the investigator’s report said it would have been nearly impossible for officers to distinguish whether there was a magazine in the gun under the conditions.
The chief has announced that although Officer Mensah has been cleared in the Cole shooting, he will remain suspended while the Wauwatosa Police and Fire Commission continues its investigation into the officer’s 2016 shooting of Jay Anderson, which has already been ruled “justified” several times.