Wisconsin judge to decide on charging police officer

·2-min read
Police Shooting Wisconsin Mensah (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Police Shooting Wisconsin Mensah (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

A Wisconsin judge was set to announce Wednesday whether he will invoke a rarely used process to charge a police officer in the 2016 slaying of a Black man who was sitting in a parked car.

Prosecutors declined to file charges against Joseph Mensah in Jay Anderson Jr.'s death. But Milwaukee County Judge Glenn Yamahiro was taking a second look at the case under a rarely used process known as a John Doe proceeding. The judge was set to announce Wednesday whether he will file charges against Mensah in the case.

Mensah, who is also Black, discovered the 25-year-old Anderson sleeping in his car after hours in a park in Wauwatosa, a Milwaukee suburb. Mensah said he shot Anderson after he reached for a gun.

Anderson was the second of three people Mensah shot to death during a five-year stint with the Wauwatosa Police Department. Prosecutors cleared him of criminal wrongdoing in each case.

Anderson’s family asked Yamahiro to review that case under the John Doe procedure that allows judges to directly question witnesses.. If a judge finds sufficient evidence for charges, he or she can file them directly, leaving prosecutors out of the equation. At least six other states have similar statutory provisions but attorneys say the process is rarely used in Wisconsin.

Mensah joined the Wauwatosa Police Department in 2015. That year he fatally shot Antonio Gonzales, who identified as Latino and American Indian. Prosecutors said Gonzales refused to drop a sword.

The Anderson shooting came the next year. Then, in 2020, Mensah fatally shot 17-year-old Alvin Cole as Cole fled from police during a disturbance in a mall. Mensah said he shot Cole, who was Black, after he pointed a gun at him. That set off months of protests. Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm’s decision not to charge him in that shooting led to more protests in Wauwatosa in October.

Mensah remained under pressure ever after being cleared in Cole’s death and resigned in November. He collected a $130,000 severance payment and now works as a Waukesha County deputy.

The Anderson family’s attorney, Kimberley Motley, also represents the Gonzales and Cole families. She said she is considering invoking the John Doe process for those families as well.

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