A Black Wisconsin police officer who fatally shot a Black teenager outside a suburban Milwaukee mall in February will not be charged in his death, after prosecutors said Wednesday that the shooting was justified.
Wauwatosa Officer Joseph Mensah shot 17-year-old Alvin Cole outside Mayfair Mall on Feb. 2 after a disturbance was reported inside the shopping center.
Cole was the third person Mensah has fatally shot in the last five years. Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm ruled that as in the previous two shootings, the shooting of Cole was justified.
Chisholm wrote in a 14-page summary explaining his decision Wednesday that “there is sufficient evidence that Officer Mensah had an actual subjective belief that deadly force was necessary and that belief was objectively reasonable.”
Police have said mall security escorted about 10 people from the mall after a fight inside and called police after a witness reported one of the youths had a handgun. When police officers arrived, Cole and others ran away and officers chased on foot. Police said Cole fired a handgun before he was shot by Mensah.
Cole’s family disputes that he shot the gun and has called for Mensah to be fired. Mensah was suspended with pay by the Wauwatosa Police and Fire Commission in July and has since appealed that suspension. The commission hired former U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic to investigate the case with an eye toward what discipline Mensah might face; Biskupic released a report Wednesday concluding Mensah should be fired because the risk he might shoot a fourth person is too great and he violated department policy when he spoke to the media about the shooting in July.
There’s no body-camera video of the shooting because Wauwatosa’s officers aren’t equipped with them. The city did release squad car dashcam video, but Cole’s family and Motley said it shed little light on what happened.
Cole’s death sparked protests in Wauwatosa throughout the summer, including in and around the mall and outside of a house where Mensah was staying. Two men were charged in an August altercation at the house after a shotgun was fired.
In anticipation of protests after the announcement of the charging decision, Wauwatosa officials shut down City Hall and the library for about three days, beginning at noon Wednesday. News of the charges comes after high-profile deaths of Black people during interactions with police sparked protests that spread around the world over the summer and led to a national reckoning on race in America.
Mensah was not charged in the 2016 death of Jay Anderson Jr. or the 2015 death of Antonio Gonzales. Police have said Mensah shot Gonzales eight times after he refused to drop a sword. In Anderson’s case, Mensah approached a parked car where Anderson was sleeping and said he saw a gun and thought Anderson was reaching for it, so he shot him six times.