Milwaukee, WI – The ex-wife of the Milwaukee County judge tasked with deciding whether or not a former Wauwatosa police officer will face charges for a fatal officer-involved shooting is also an attorney who has represented the family of the suspect the officer killed.
Deja Vishny, the ex-wife and mother of Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Glenn Yamahiro’s child, was one of two attorneys representing the families of Alvin Cole and Jay Anderson in June of 2020, the Shepherd Express reported at the time.
According to the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office, Anderson was fatally shot by then-Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah on June 23, 2016, after Anderson lunged for a gun during a traffic stop after the officer spotted the weapon ordered him to put his hands up, WPR reported.
Cole, 17, was fatally shot by Officer Mensah after the teen opened fire on police with a stolen handgun on Feb. 2, 2020, WDJT reported.
Both shootings were ruled as justified, as was a third officer-involved shooting involving Officer Mensah.
Vishny and fellow attorney Kimberley Motley filed complaints and open records requests on behalf of their clients – the Cole and Anderson families – last summer, the Shepherd Express reported.
“We want Joseph Mensah to be terminated from his employment. He should not be a police officer,” Vishny declared during a protest outside the Wauwatosa Police Department (WPD) that day. “He’s killed three people in five years. He’s fired 19 shots. He has not been disciplined by the police department for what he has done.”
Officer Mensah, then a five-year veteran of WPD, was the subject of a Wauwatosa Police and Fire Commission (PFC) investigation and the target of Black Lives Matter protests in Milwaukee and Wauwatosa for months.
The PFC voted to suspend Officer Mensah in July of 2020 and assigned a former federal prosecutor to re-investigate the 2016 shooting of Anderson, even though it had already been ruled justified by the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office.
Under pressure from activists, they also passed a non-binding resolution that called for Officer Mensah’s termination and the mayor agreed to sign it, WISN reported.
“I’m signing it today,” Wauwatosa Mayor Dennis McBride said at the time. “We understand, it’s not just community pressure, that’s substantial. We hear it. We’ve heard it, but the experts tell us it’s extraordinarily rare, perhaps unique for one officer to be involved in three shootings that result in death while employed, especially in a five-year period.”
“We find that a difficult situation to continue, and we also worry about putting him back on the street because he may be the target of somebody who may be displeased with him,” the mayor added.
Officer Mensah was subjected to months of harassment by protesters, including an attack on him and his Milwaukee police officer girlfriend at her home while her children were inside.
One of the protesters fired a shotgun at the door of the home, barely missing Officer Mensah.
Police ultimately arrested three people who were involved in the shooting and identified the gunman as a member of The People’s Revolution, one of the groups that had organized violent protests in the area.
Meanwhile, the Anderson family kept up the pressure on the PFC and mayor.
The PFC special investigator’s report concluded that the officer should be fired and said permitting Officer Mensah to remain an officer “creates an extraordinary, unwarranted and unnecessary risk to the Wauwatosa Police Department and the City of Wauwatosa.”
Officer Mensah reached an agreement with the city to resign from its police department effective Nov. 30, 2020 in exchange for a compensation package worth $125,000.
The package took months of negotiations and a lawsuit from the officer after the city committed to getting rid of him, according to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
A source with knowledge of the investigation told The Police Tribune this was the officer’s best option and the whole debacle that led to his resignation was a gross example of “cancel culture.”
“He did not do anything wrong,” the source explained. “This agreement completely exonerates him and keeps his record clean and allows him the ability to apply elsewhere. Cancel culture at its finest.”
Officer Mensah was also later cleared by federal civil rights investigators in a separate probe, Wisconsin Right Now reported.
Meanwhile, Motley continued to demand the court order a new investigation into the death of Anderson, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
Under Wisconsin law, “a circuit judge may permit the filing of a complaint,” even if the district attorney refuses to do so, according to the paper.
But before that can happen, the judge must find probable cause to believe an individual could be criminally charged.
Motley argued during a third court hearing before Yamahiro on Wednesday that Anderson never presented a threat to Officer Mensah, and that the officer’s actions “were contrary to his privilege for use of force,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
Vishny’s current level of involvement in the case is unclear, but she continues to work for Motley’s law firm on an “of counsel” basis, according to Wisconsin Right Now.
Her ex-husband, who also happens to be a former defense attorney, is expected to issue a decision on June 25 regarding whether or not charges should be filed against now-Deputy Mensah, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.