Milwaukee, WI – A judge has granted immunity to three Wauwatosa police officers whom prosecutors want to interview in connection with the 2016 fatal shooting of Jay Anderson, Jr. by former Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah.
Former Officer Mensah is now a deputy for the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department.
He resigned from the Wauwatosa Police Department in November of 2020 with a severance payment in what sources told The Police Tribune was a gross example of “cancel culture.”
Former Officer Mensah had three fatal shootings in five years on the Wauwatosa police force but all of them were ruled justified by authorities.
The fatal shooting of Anderson was actually previously investigated four times, by four different entities, and on each occasion, then-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.
In July of 2021, Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Glenn Yamahiro found probable cause to charge now-Deputy Mensah with murder despite the fact the shooting has previously been ruled “justified” four times.
“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.
Yamahiro said he would choose a special prosecutor to bring charges against the former Wauwatosa police officer and finally did so in December when he appointed La Crosse County District Attorney Tim Gruenke and Milwaukee civil litigator Scott Hansen to the case together, WITI reported.
The judge signed the order granting immunity to Wauwatosa Police Officers Ralph Salyers and Stephen Mills and Wauwatosa Police Captain Gary Gabrish on Jan. 4 based on a request from the special prosecutors.
Court filings showed the officers’ attorneys had asked for the immunity guarantee “out of an abundance of caution,” WITI reported.
Officer Mills and Salyers were the first two officers to arrive on the scene after Officer Mensah shot Anderson, and Capt. Gabrish ultimately became the incident commander on the scene.
“Although it may be unorthodox because neither of the officers are seen as suspects in any crime, and our interviews would not likely reveal any criminal activity, I agreed to request such a guarantee from the court so we can interview them about their involvement in this matter without any hesitations,” Gruenke wrote in his request for the judge to grant them immunity.