A Wisconsin judge has found probable cause to charge a police officer in the 2016 slaying of a Black man, years after prosecutors declined to file charges.
Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Glenn Yamahiro said Wednesday there was cause to charge Joseph Mensah with homicide by negligent use of a weapon in the shooting death of Jay Anderson Jr. in Wauwatosa in 2016.
"I couldn't breathe through the whole thing, but once he read his decision, it was a relief. It was a relief," said Anderson's mother, Linda.
"It was. I cried. I cried," said Jay Anderson Sr.
Prosecutors cleared Mensah, who is also Black, of any criminal wrongdoing soon after the shooting, but Anderson’s family asked Yamahiro to review the case through the state’s little-used John Doe process.
It allows a judge to question witnesses directly and to decide whether charges should be filed.
In his remarks, Yamahiro said Mensah created an "unreasonable and substantial risk of death." He added that Mensah could have chosen to deescalate the situation, including waiting for backup, which was on its way and that evidence shows Anderson never lunged for a weapon.
"The conduct of Mr. Anderson was consistent with a person under the influence of intoxicants, who had been asleep, who was trying but was having difficulty complying with the orders of Officer Mensah," Yamahiro said.
"This decision is huge for the state of Wisconsin, and frankly I think it's huge for this country," said Anderson family's attorney, Kimberley Motley. "They just want basic justice which is what they're entitled to."
Wauwatosa Chief of Police James MacGillis released the follow statement following the decision:
I want my message to be universal. Respecting the District Attorney’s in-depth investigation and His Honor’s decision, the legal process will continue moving forward and I want to thank them for their legal review of this incident.
I have never lost sight that a police officer accepts risks inherent with the responsibilities of the job. Nor have I ever lost sight that citizens and police officers are human beings, and all humans are impacted by rapidly unfolding, dynamic and tragic events.
The law was written by people for the people and must always be objective, and as such, does not take human emotions into consideration.
MacGillis also said he had been in touch with Anderson's family.
"I have connected with the Anderson family in private to express my condolences for the loss of their loved one; a son and family member," said MacGillis. "I pray for their healing. The officers of the Wauwatosa Police Department continue their dedication to public safety for all citizens and understand that this is a time for community healing and trust-building. Fair and impartial policing is our highest priority while recognizing the human beings who are affected by our public safety efforts."
The Waukesha County Sheriff's Office released the following statement:
"In light of Judge Glenn Yamahiro’s decision regarding Joseph Mensah, Sheriff Eric Severson will be reviewing all of his options, and will have a more detailed statement and decision forthcoming."
Judge Yamahiro is expected to appoint a special prosecutor at the next court date on September 28.
Protests on Wednesday
Protesters also marched in Wauwatosa this evening, after the judge found probable cause to charge Mensah in the slaying of Anderson Jr.
Our crews report there was a small showdown between protesters and police, but officers soon left and protesters continued on their way.
One of the organizers said a driver tried to cut through the marchers. When police arrived, they saw the armed guards that the marchers had and briefly pulled their guns on the guards.
The whole thing was very brief, the organizer said.