A black officer from the Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, Police Department is resigning after fatally shooting three people — all of them minorities — in five years.
The resignation of Joseph Mensah, who’s been suspended since July in the wake of his third fatal shooting, is effective Nov. 30, the
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
What’s the background?
The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office ruled all three fatal shootings justified self-defense, including the most recent shooting in February, the paper said.
But Mensah remained suspended after the family of Jay Anderson Jr. — whom Mensah fatally shot in a Wauwatosa park in 2016 — filed a complaint, the Journal Sentinel added.
The paper reported in a previous story that two of the fatally shot individuals were black and the third person shot and killed was Latino/Native American.
In August, Mensah said protesters chanted “black lives matter” while shooting at him and punching him at his girlfriend’s home.
Mensah posted on Facebook that protesters “tried to kill me. I was unarmed and tried to defend my property and the property of my girlfriend. We were both assaulted, punched, and ultimately shot at several times. A shotgun round missed me by inches. Not once did I ever swing back or reciprocate any the hate that was being directed at me. I am all for peaceful protests, even against me, but this was anything but peaceful. They threw toilet paper in her trees, broke her windows, and again, shot at both of us as they were trying to kill me. There are children that live there any the knew that. The irony in all of this is that they chanted Black Lives Matter the entire time, but had zero regard for any of the black children that live there or me, a black man.”
Wauwatosa police said between 50 and 60 people gathered at the home to protest Mensah on the night of Aug. 8, where he was physically assaulted and a single shotgun round was fired into the home, the Journal Sentinel noted in another story.
Police added that protesters began to vandalize the home around 8 p.m. and that while Mensah “attempted to establish a dialog,” he “was ultimately physically assaulted,” the Journal Sentinel said, citing a police department release.
As Mensah went inside, “armed protesters approached the rear door and a single shotgun round was discharged by a member of the group into Officer Mensah’s backdoor,” the paper added, citing the release.
Former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker called the incident “domestic terrorism” and said officials “must take action”:
This is domestic terrorism. Local, county, state, and federal officials must take action. https://t.co/YF3ZhIV0bF
— Scott Walker (@Scott Walker)1596996531.0
Three people have since been charged in that incident, the paper said.
Mensah also told WISN-AM that roughly 100 protesters came to his home on the night of July 27, the Journal Sentinel reported in a separate story.
“To call me a murderer, without any conviction, without any charges, and then to do something like this, again, I’m angry, I’m frustrated, I’m confused,” he said during the interview, the paper reported.
Mensah added that “it’d be one thing if there was any kind of cause, whatsoever, for my actions. But I defended myself, several times. Proven that I defended myself several times,” the Journal Sentinel said.
He also said he believes he was suspended to appease protesters, WITI-TV reported.
“They knew all about this in 2016,” Mensah said, according to the station. “They didn’t have an issue with it in 2017. They didn’t have an issue with it back in 2018. They didn’t have an issue in 2019. Now, it’s 2020. Let’s just suspend him for no reason.”
A GoFundMe for Mensah’s legal fees set up in mid-July raised over $78,000.
What’s been happening lately?
Before Mensah’s resignation was announced Tuesday, a hearing before the police and fire commission was scheduled for Dec. 16 in which Mensah would have had the opportunity to regain his job, the Journal Sentinel said.
More from the paper:
The commission was the only panel that could fire Mensah. But others have weighed in throughout the year.
On the same day that Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm cleared Mensah of any criminal wrongdoing in his third fatal shooting, an independent investigator hired by the commission recommended that Mensah be fired.
Steven Biskupic wrote in his report released Oct. 7 that the potential for a fourth fatal shooting by Mensah “creates an extraordinary, unwarranted and unnecessary risk to the Wauwatosa Police Department and the City of Wauwatosa.”
He said there was “just cause” for Mensah to be fired since he made “inconsistent and misleading” public statements about the shootings, which violated a department policy and which could compromise his ability to testify in court.
Three months earlier, the common council passed a resolution calling for the removal of Mensah. The next day, the police and fire commission suspended him.
Mensah later filed a lawsuit in Milwaukee County, contesting there wasn’t “just cause” for his suspension. Mensah’s attorney, Jonathan Cermele, said in advance of the December hearing that Mensah would have been “completely capable” of performing his duties as an officer and that suspending him violates his due process because “one simply cannot be disciplined for an act that has yet to occur.”
The city is asking the commission to meet as soon as possible to dismiss the charges pending against Mensah, the Journal Sentinel added.
“Now is the time for all of us to come together and heal,” Wauwatosa Mayor Dennis McBride said, according to the paper.
Officer Mensah to resign