Wauwatosa, WI – A Wauwatosa police officer who was previously cleared in the 2016 justified shooting of Jay Anderson Jr. was suspended on Wednesday after Anderson’s family filed a complaint calling for the officer’s termination.
Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah has been the shooter in three officer-involved shootings in the past five years, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office ruled that the fatal shooting of Anderson and the fatal shooting of Antonio Gonzalez in 2015 were both justified self-defense.
The third officer-involved shooting resulted in the death of Alvin Cole in February and is still under investigation, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
Officer Mensah was already on administrative leave while that shooting was investigated when the Anderson’s file their new complaint, as is protocol for all officer-involved shootings, WPR reported.
The same lawyers are representing the families of Anderson, Gonzalez, and Cole.
At the virtual meeting of the Wauwatosa Police and Fire Commission (PFC) on July 15, attorney Kimberly Motley called for the termination of Officer Mensah on behalf of the Anderson family, WISN reported.
Motley said accused the officer of having violated the police department’s code of ethics.
Anderson’s family wants to see Officer Mensah fired and prosecuted, WPR reported.
The five-year veteran of the Wauwatosa police force, who is black, has been the focus of Black Lives Matter protests in Milwaukee for the past month.
Linda Anderson said the family felt compelled to come forward when they saw the same officer who had shot her son had killed someone else.
“I would like to see him fired and to do some time for the killings he has done,” Linda Anderson told WPR. “It is not normal. It is not normal to kill three people. He is a murderer.”
Mensah’s attorney, Jonathan Cermele, reminded the commissioners that the officer-involved shooting of Anderson had already been investigated four times, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
Milwaukee police, the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and the Wauwatosa Police Department all investigated the incident, Cermele said.
“None of those entities, absolutely none of them, opined that charges of any kind whatsoever were appropriate,” Officer Mensah’s attorney said, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
“In the end, I am confident that the commission is going to come to the same conclusion that every other investigatory authority has come to, and dismiss this complaint,” he added.
The Wauwatosa Police Department released a statement in defense of Officer Mensah, WPR reported.
“In each of the cases involving officer Mensah, those Mensah encountered were armed with weapons. Each incident happened very quickly, and verbal commands were given and not complied with. He defended himself with deadly force,” Wauwatosa Police Chief Barry Weber said in the statement.
“Officer Mensah was placed on administrative leave after each incident, pending the decision of the District Attorney,” Chief Weber continued. “The rule from the DA was that the use of force was justified in the first two incidents. Mensah is currently on administrative leave while waiting for the DA to rule on the incident from this past February.”
But the attorney for Anderson’s family has called for the previously-closed investigation into Anderson’s death to be re-opened and protesters rallied in front of City Hall ahead of the PFC meeting about the complaint.
“(Mensah) has become a significant risk to the public at large,” Motley told members of the commission during the virtual meeting, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
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 do not wear bodycams.
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.
“Murder does not have a statute of limitations,” Motley said. “So I think it is important to re-look at this case, especially because it is the same officer.”
She is also representing the family of Gonzalez, who was shot by Officer Mensah on July 16, 2015, after officers responded to a domestic violence call, according to the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Investigative Report.
Gonzalez, 29, greeted the officers in the front yard with a samurai sword, which he waved as he advanced toward them.
When the suspect continued to advance and failed to heed officers’ commands to drop the sword, Officer Mensah opened fire and fatally shot him, the report said.
The district attorney also found Officer Mensah’s shooting of Gonzalez to be legally justified, WPR reported.
The shooting that is still under investigation occurred on Feb. 2 when officers responded to the Mayfair Mall for a report of a disturbance and a man with a gun, WDJT reported.
Police said that after a foot chase, Cole fired at officers with a stolen handgun and Officer Mensah returned fire.
Cole was fatally shot.
The investigation into the incident is ongoing and the district attorney’s office has not yet rendered a decision about whether to charge the officer, WDJT reported.
Regardless, the commission voted to suspend Officer Mensah with pay at the end of the July 15 meeting, WITI reported.
The PFC does not have the authority to suspend without pay.
They also assigned a former U.S. attorney to re-investigate the Anderson shooting, WISN reported.
The Wauwatosa Common Council also voted to pass a non-binding resolution that called for the city administrator and Chief Weber to fire Officer Mensah after weeks of pressure from protesters, and the mayor agreed to sign it.
“I’m signing it today,” Wauwatosa Mayor Dennis McBride told WISN. “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’s Mensah’s family has established a GoFundMe page to raise funds for the officer to file a lawsuit against “those that have unjustly accused him of wrongdoing, interfered with his ability to receive due process, and wrongly besmirched his character and integrity.”
The campaign raised $19,880 of it’s $25,000 goal after being up for a day.