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Nation & World

Suburban Milwaukee Police Officer Who Has Killed 3 People Since 2015 Set To Resign

This undated photo from the Wauwatosa, Wisc., Police Department shows officer Joseph Mensah. He has fatally shot three people in the line of duty since 2015 and is resigning from the department Nov. 30.
This undated photo from the Wauwatosa, Wisc., Police Department shows officer Joseph Mensah. He has fatally shot three people in the line of duty since 2015 and is resigning from the department Nov. 30.

Joseph Mensah, a Wauwatosa, Wis., police officer who has been suspended from the department since this summer, is being allowed to resign at the end of this month, city officials announced.

Mensah has been suspended from the suburban Milwaukee police department since July 15. He has shot and killed three people in the line of duty since 2015, according to multiple reports, including a Black teenager outside a shopping mall in February.

The Wauwatosa Common Council announced it entered a separation agreement on Tuesday with Mensah, the Wauwatosa Peace Officers' Association and the city's police department.

The resignation is effective Nov. 30.

"Now is the time for all of us to come together and heal," Wauwatosa Mayor Dennis McBride said in a statement.

"We've made substantial progress during 2020, and in the coming year we'll continue to focus on positive change for our community," McBride continued. "As before, I'm committed to working with the Common Council, the city's Equity and Inclusion Commission, and members of the public to make that happen."

Prior to the resignation announcement, a hearing was scheduled for next month before the Wauwatosa Police and Fire Commission, which would have provided an opportunity for Mensah, who is Black, to hold on to his job, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

The newspaper notes that the commission was the only body that could terminate Mensah from the police department.

In October, days of protests erupted in Wauwatosa after the Milwaukee County district attorney announced no charges would be filed against Mensah. The district attorney's office said Mensah acted in self-defense when he shot and killed 17-year-old Alvin Cole outside Mayfair Mall on Feb. 2.

John Chisholm, the Milwaukee County district attorney, said in a 14-page letter addressed to the city's police chief that "there is sufficient evidence that Officer Mensah had an actual subjective belief that deadly force was necessary and that belief was objectively reasonable."

Chisolm added that it was his belief that state prosecutors could not disprove self-defense or defense of others and "therefore could not meet the burden required to charge Officer Mensah."

His report said that Cole was armed with a 9 mm pistol and that after he arrived at the mall, he got into a verbal altercation with an adult male. Afterward, when Cole encountered police officers in the parking lot, he ran, the report said. Cole's weapon was discharged and officers ordered him to surrender it.

"He did not surrender the weapon and was fired upon by Officer Mensah causing his death," Chisolm's report added.

Mensah's two earlier shootings had also been found to be in self-defense, and the officer was not disciplined.

A separate report after the latest death, compiled by an independent investigator, former U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic, was submitted to the Wauwatosa Police and Fire Commission last month.

Biskupic's report stated that Mensah should be terminated, according to a local CBS affiliate.

Chisholm's decision to not bring charges set off consecutive nights of protests in the city, prompting officials to impose curfews for five days, The Associated Press reports. The wire service adds that at the time, the city's schools were shuttered, local businesses were boarded up and the National Guard was called in and stationed outside the mall.

Mensah's two previous fatal shootings took place in 2015 and 2016, reports the Journal Sentinel.

The paper notes that during the 2016 shooting, Mensah was patrolling Madison Park during the overnight hours when he came across Jay Anderson sleeping in his car. As Mensah approached, he said, Anderson lunged for his gun, which he legally owned, the Journal Sentinel reports, adding that the officer fired six rounds into the car, striking Anderson four times.

The paper notes that Anderson's family disputed the police department's accounting of the events and filed a complaint with the Wauwatosa Police and Fire Commission.

The Journal Sentinel reports that Mensah's first fatal shooting in the line of duty took place after roughly seven months with the department, in 2015.

A man named Antonio Gonzales was brandishing a sword and refused to drop it when Mensah and another officer arrived to the scene.

"Mensah fired his weapon eight times because he feared for his safety and the safety of two other citizens on the scene," the paper reports, citing a review of the incident.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.