Wauwatosa, WI – A Milwaukee County judge found probable cause to charge former Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah with murder on Wednesday in a 2016 shooting that had already been ruled justified four times.
Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Glenn Yamahiro said he would appoint a special prosecutor to bring the charges against the former Wauwatosa police officer, who is now a deputy for the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
The fatal shooting of Jay Anderson Jr. was actually investigated four times, by four different entities, and on each occasion, Officer Mensah’s use of lethal force was deemed justified.
The Milwaukee Police Department, the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and the Wauwatosa Police Department all determined that the officer should not be charged.
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.
But Anderson “lunged toward the gun with his right hand,” according to the district attorney.
Officer Mensah opened fire and shot Anderson five times in the head and once in the shoulder, according to WPR.
Wauwatosa police officers did not wear bodycams at the time of the shooting.
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, WPR reported.
Anderson’s family asked Yamahiro to review the case using the state’s John Doe process that allowed a judge to question witnesses directly and make his own decision about whether to bring charges, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
“This decision has not been taken lightly, nor was it predetermined,” Yamahiro said when he made the ruling.
“Based upon the totality of circumstances, the court does find probable cause that Officer Joseph Mensah operated a weapon, in a matter constituting criminal negligence, and in so doing, caused the death of Jay Anderson Jr.,” the judge said.
“Therefore, the court finds probable cause that Officer Mensah committed the crime, homicide by negligent handling of a dangerous weapon,” Yamahiro continued. “The basis for this finding rests on the testimony received over the course of these hearings.”
He said Officer Mensah created an “unreasonable and substantial risk of death” when he shot Anderson, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
Deputy Mensah was suspended by the Wauwatosa Police Department a year ago after Anderson’s family’s attorney, Kimberly Motley, filed a complaint with the Wauwatosa Police and Fire Commission (PFC) and called for his termination, WISN reported at the time.
The PFC vowed to fire Officer Mensah but in the end, the city ended up paying him $125,000 to resign.
A source with knowledge of the investigation told The Police Tribune this was Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah’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 a target of Black Lives Matter protests in Milwaukee for months and endured an attack on his girlfriend’s home during which a shotgun was fired at them.
The five-year veteran of the Wauwatosa police force had been involved in three justified fatal shootings in five years, and sources said that once activists focused on him, the officer’s best option was to take the buyout option and start over someplace else.