The police chief in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, said Monday he had no reason to fire the officer who fatally shot a Black teenager, the third person the officer fatally shot in the past five years.
Alvin Cole, 17, was shot by Wauwatosa Officer Joseph Mensah, who is also Black, outside Mayfair Mall in early February after police responded to a reported disturbance at the shopping center. Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm cleared Mensah in the case last week, sparking days of protest.
Mensah’s employment status remains the same as the city’s Police and Fire Commission investigates a complaint against him, Wauwatosa Police Chief Barry Weber said during a press conference on Monday.
“There is a process that is in place, but Joseph Mensah has been cleared by the district attorney in three different cases,” Weber said. “There’s been no reason up to this point and none that I can see that he should be removed from the force. He’s acted legally and lawfully in all previous actions that I’m aware of.”
In 2015, Mensah shot and killed Antonio Gonzales in 2015 after police said Gonzales refused to drop a sword. The next year, Mensah shot Jay Anderson Jr. after the officer found Anderson in a car parked in a park after hours.
Mensah’s two previous fatal shootings had been justified as self-defense, without charges or departmental discipline, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The shooting of Cole was also deemed justified and no charges were filed by prosecutors.
Chisholm wrote in his rationale that evidence showed Cole fled from police carrying a stolen 9 mm handgun. Cole had fired a shot while fleeing and refused commands to drop the gun, according to squad car audio and testimonies from Mensah and two other officers.
“He did not surrender the weapon and was fired upon by Officer Mensah causing his death,” Chisholm wrote. He concluded: “(T)here is sufficient evidence that Officer Mensah had an actual subjective belief that deadly force was necessary and that belief was objectively reasonable.”
Kimberly Motley, the attorney representing Cole’s family, said Mensah was “unfit & should be fired” in a series of tweets Monday. She also called on Wauwatosa Mayor Dennis McBride to fire the chief.
“Mayor McBride is the supervisor to Chief Weber and he has failed miserably,” Motley tweeted. “Have you called for the resignation of Chief Weber? Stop passing the buck Mayor! Wauwatosa deserves better!”
Alvin Cole’s mother, Tracy Cole, and his sisters, Taleavia and Tristiana Cole, were among a group of protesters who were arrested Thursday while demonstrating in a church parking lot. Motley tweeted Friday that Tracy and Tristiana Cole were released from the hospital following the incident, but did not say why they were in need of medical attention.
The mayor said Monday that the family was not targeted.
“The officers weren’t aware that they were the Cole family, they were just people who were violating the curfew at that time,” McBride said.
Rapper Jay-Z offered to pay bail bonds and citation fees for the family and others arrested for peacefully protesting with Team ROC, the social justice branch of his Roc Nation entertainment company. The Brooklyn-born artist took out a full-page ad in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel calling for Mensah to be terminated and prosecuted in Cole’s death.