The Milwaukee County District Attorney, John T. Chisholm announced today that no charges would be brought against Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah in the shooting death of 17-year old Alvin Cole on February 2, 2020. The family of Cole and a crowd of over one hundred protesters gathered outside the Milwaukee County Safety Building Wednesday afternoon awaiting the decision from the District Attorney. Shortly after 4pm CST, the family of Alvin Cole went into the building to hear the decision. A little while later the family emerged announcing that the District Attorney was not filing charges against Officer Mensah.
District Attorney Chisholm released a 14 page report outlining the incident, the evidence, and the reason for his decision. Part of Chisholm’s letter reads, “In this case, there is sufficient evidence that Officer Mensah had an actual subjective belief that deadly force was necessary and that belief was objectively reasonable. I do not believe that the State could disprove self-defense or defense of others in this case and therefore could not meet the burden required to charge Officer Mensah. With this I conclude my criminal review of the matter.” He later did an interview further explaining his actions after the decision was announced.
Wauwatosa Police Chief Weber released a video statement concurring with the District Attorney’s decision. He acknowledged the opposition to the decision from the family and the community but did not waver in his support of no charges being brought. Chief Weber then went on to explain the steps the Wauwatosa Police Department had been taking to improve policing in the community.
In anticipation of unrest in the city following the announcement, Wauwatosa city officials decided to close city hall and the public library until Monday. They also shifted schools to exclusively virtual learning. The city announced a curfew is in effect from 7pm to 6am starting Wednesday night and continuing until Monday. The Mayfair Mall announced that it would be closing early. Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers enacted the National Guard to help local law enforcement and were seen stationed outside the Mayfair Mall.
The crowd of angry protesters immediately began a march to the highway, blocking Interstate 94 during rush hour. More unrest is expected in the city as the night progresses.
So what happened?
On February 2, 2020, officers were called to the Mayfield Mall in Wauwatosa, WIsconsin due to an argument between Alvin Cole and a man, whom Cole did not know, inside the mall. Witnesses reported that a misunderstanding led Cole and two friends to confront the man. Cole reached into a sling bag he had across his chest and started to pull out a handgun. A security guard intervened in the altercation. Cole and his friends ran from the scene.
The police were called to the scene after this incident. Three Wauwatosa Police Officers arrived at the Mall. Officer Olsen, Officer Shamsi, and Officer Mensah found Cole and two friends exiting the south parking garage of the mall. The officers successfully detained the two individuals with Cole but Cole fled on foot. The police officers gave chase with a mall security guard, repeatedly ordering Cole to “surrender the firearm” when a shot was fired from Cole’s location. Officer Mensah fired five rounds at the suspect, killing him.
The police investigation later revealed that Cole was in possession of a 9mm semi-automatic handgun with extended clip holding 30 rounds. A spent shell casing was found near Cole’s body and he had a graze wound to his left shoulder which led investigators to the conclusion that Cole had discharged the weapon.
After the incident, Officer Mensah was suspended with pay. He is appealing this decision. Officer Mensah is a five year employee of the Wauwatosa Police Department and has been involved in two other fatal shootings of suspects he interacted with.
July 6, 2015, Tony Gonzales was reported to be threatening Wauwatosa Police Officers Jeffrey Newman and Mensah, with a sword and did not comply with orders to drop the weapon. Officer Mensah shot Gonzales six times and claimed he was defending his life and the life of his partner. His claim of self defense was substantiated through an investigation of the event and no charges were brought against Mensah.
June 23, 2016 Jay Anderson Jr. was sleeping in his car around 3am. Police were called to Anderson Jr.’s location on an after-hours loitering call. Officer Mensah responded to the call and found Anderson Jr.. Officer Mensah approached the car and tried to wake Anderson Jr.. Officer Mensah observed a handgun on the passenger seat, beside Anderson Jr.. Mensah drew his weapon and ordered Anderson Jr. to raise his hands. Mensah called for backup but Anderson Jr. is reported to have lowered his right hand at least four times as if he were going to pick up the weapon. Anderson Jr. then moved his arm quickly towards the gun, at which time Officer Mensah discharged his weapon 6 times striking Anderson Jr. in the head and shoulder, killing him. After an investigation, Mensah was not charged in Anderson Jr.’s death.