Unanimous vote comes after City Council recommends firing.
Wauwatosa’s Police and Fire Commission on Wednesday voted unanimously to suspend Officer Joseph Mensah, who has killed three people in the last five years.
The vote came a day after the Milwaukee suburb’s City Council voted 13-1 to recommend Mensah’s firing, calling it “imperative” to fire him “as quickly as possible.” Pressure to fire and prosecute Mensah for the shootings has gone national, with the officer’s track record receiving coverage in outlets like the Wall Street Journal and garnering the attention of rapper Jay-Z’s social justice organization.
While Mensah was only suspended with pay on Wednesday, he could still be fired. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that former U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic has agreed to lead an investigation into Mensah’s actions. The commission will make a decision on whether to fire Mensah when the investigation is completed — a process that could take two months or more, according to the Journal Sentinel.
“I’m very pleased (but) this is just one step,” Tracy Cole, mother of one of the people Mensah killed, told WITI.
Mensah’s first fatal shooting was on July 16, 2015, when he killed Antonio Gonzalez, a 28-year-old mentally ill man who was brandishing a sword, according to documents filled with the commission. Less than a year later on June 23, 2016, Mensah shot 25-year-old Jay Anderson Jr. six times in the head and neck after he found Anderson asleep in his car with a gun in the passenger seat. The documents, filed by the families’ attorney, say Anderson was complying with his hands up and that he never reached for the gun before Mensah shot him.
The most recent shooting was on Feb. 2, when Mensah shot and killed 17-year-old Alvin Cole outside Mayfair Mall after Cole allegedly fired a handgun.
There is no body camera footage of any of the shootings because the department does not have body cameras for all its officers.
The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office ruled that the shootings of Gonzalez and Anderson were self-defense but has not yet made a ruling on the Cole shooting.
“We’ve heard it, but the experts tell us it’s extraordinarily rare, perhaps unique for one officer to be involved in three shootings that result in death while employed, especially in a five-year period,” Mayor Dennis McBride told WISN.
Mensah is the only Wauwatosa officer to have killed anyone in the last five years, according to the Journal Sentinel.
“Wauwatosa is not a crime-ridden community,” Kimberly Motley, the attorney representing the Cole, Anderson, and Gonzalez families, told UpNorthNews on Wednesday. “So for him to kill that many people in that short of a time reflects on him as an officer, and reflects on his leaders.”
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