December 5, 2020

Chief: No reason to fire Wisconsin officer who killed teen

The police chief of a Milwaukee suburb that has seen protests and unrest since an officer was cleared of criminal wrongdoing in the fatal shooting of a Black teenager in February said Monday that he sees no reason why the officer should be fired.

Joseph Mensah, who is also Black, fatally shot 17-year-old Alvin Cole on Feb. 2 outside the Mayfair Mall in Wauwatosa. Cole was the third person Mensah shot and killed since joining the police force five years ago.

Milwaukee County’s district attorney announced last week that like the first two fatal shootings, Mensah would not be charged in Cole’s death. In his report, he noted that officers said Cole pointed a gun at them and refused to drop it, and that Mensah could successfully argue he fired in self-defense.

Although Mensah won’t face charges, the Wauwatosa Police and Fire Commission is considering firing him. The commission asked an independent investigator, former U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic, to look into a complaint filed by the family of one of the men Mensah killed.

In a report provided to The Associated Press by Cole’s family’s attorney, Biskupic recommended that Mensah be fired because he felt the risk was too great that Mensah would fatally shoot someone else, which would create “an extraordinary, unwarranted and unnecessary risk” to the city and police department.

After five nights of protests and sporadic unrest, police Chief Barry Weber said during an online news conference Monday that he disagrees with Biskupic’s recommendations because Mensah was found to have acted legally when he used deadly force in all three shooting deaths.

“I’ve never heard of any police officer ever being disciplined for something they may or may not do in the future,” Weber said, noting that the decision is ultimately up to the commission to decide.

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