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Family wants investigation after Jay Anderson was fatally shot by former Wauwatosa officer

Posted at 6:43 PM, Feb 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-25 23:11:38-05

MILWAUKEE — More than four years after their son was shot and killed by a Wauwatosa police officer, the family of Jay Anderson wants a special prosecutor to look into the case again.

In June 2016, 23-year-old Jay Anderson, Jr., was shot and killed by then-Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah. The Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office declined to bring charges in this case.

On Thursday afternoon, the attorney for the Anderson family presented her case for a special prosecutor in front of a judge. Attorney Kimberley Motley said evidence and expert witness testimony will show Mensah's use of force was unreasonable.

Family, friends, activists and the family of Alvin Cole all gathered in the courtroom in support of the Anderson family.

The first witness to speak was Anderson's close friend, Hakim Fudge, who tearfully recalled how he and Anderson were hanging out on that day in 2016. They went for a few drinks and then stopped at a gas station. He recalled the last words he ever said to his friend.

"I told him to go home. 'I'll talk to you tomorrow, be safe,'" Fudge said.

During the hearing, Motley called witnesses to go over the autopsy and the dash camera video, which shows Mensah approaching Anderson in a parked car. Motley said Anderson was sleeping in his car around 3 a.m. in Madison Park. She said Anderson wasn't bothering anyone and should have been ticketed.

In her court filing, Motley writes Mensah told Anderson to raise his hands when he saw a gun in the front passenger seat.

"Anderson struggled to keep his right arm up and slightly dropped it; Mensah claimed this occurred four times and the squad video shows this happening twice before Mensah fired," the filing reads.

Investigators say Anderson lowered his hand near a gun, and that's when Mensah fired.

A law enforcement expert witness testified he didn't believe Mensah was in reasonable fear for his safety, and testified Mensah's use of force was not objectively reasonable. He also said Mensah wasn't being safe during his encounter.

"He not only left him within reach of the gun, but he can no longer see the gun and he can no longer see Mr. Anderson's hands if they drop below his field of view," said retired deputy sheriff William Harmening. "I want to be clear to put this in proper perspective. He didn't shoot Mr. Anderson because he reached for a gun. He shot him because he lost sight of his right hand, that's the bottom line."

The Milwaukee County District Attorney did not bring charges against Mensah in two other shootings which killed Antonio Gonzales in 2015 and Alvin Cole in 2020.

Mensah's attorney, Jon Cermele, is trying to block him from being called to testify. In a brief his attorney writes, "Petitioner may not like it, but the issue as to whether Deputy Mensah’s actions in this incident rose to the level of a crime has been decided. Not once. Not twice. But three times. Deputy Mensah’s use of deadly force with respect to this incident has been repeatedly determined to have been privileged and in self defense, and Petitioner has failed to identify any evidence not previously considered, there exists no valid reason for this Court to enforce the subpoena or even entertain this matter any further."

Cermele did not respond for a request for comment at the time of this story.

Mensah resigned from the Wauwatosa Police Department late last year, and he was recently hired at the Waukesha County Sheriff's Office.

An attorney for Wauwatosa Police Chief Barry Weber is also trying to stop him from being called to testify, citing in a brief, "Because Chief Weber was not involved in the investigation at hand in any manner, he does not have any knowledge of evidence or documents in his possession that could possibly be considered responsive to the subpoena and this inquiry. He spoke to no witness, conducted no crime scene investigation, and did not analyze or review any of the evidence observed or collected by the assigned MPD investigators."

The case is scheduled to be taken up again next month.

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