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Wauwatosa Police and Fire Commission suspends Officer Mensah, independent investigator hired

Posted at 10:01 PM, Jul 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-15 23:15:03-04

WAUWATOSA, Wis. — Wauwatosa's Police and Fire Commission voted unanimously to suspend Officer Joseph Mensah.

Officer Mensah is behind three separate fatal shootings while on duty within five years. Two shootings were ruled justified, while the third is still under review.

The suspension comes after attorneys for the family of Jay Anderson Jr., one of the three men killed by Mensah, filed a complaint.

Due to the pandemic, commissioners held the special meeting virtually. As the meeting maxed out with 100 online participants, a group gathered at city hall to watch the broadcast.

Attorneys for the Anderson family argued failure to discipline Mensah previously ultimately led to his third deadly shooting of 17-year-old Alvin Cole outside Mayfair Mall earlier this year.

In 2016, Mensah shot and killed Anderson who was in his car. Police say Anderson dropped his hand near a gun when Mensah shot him.

"He violated police procedures. We will cite to those as soon as the police department cooperates with our investigation and gives us the formal rules in existence at the time," said Deborah Vishny, one of the Anderson family attorneys.

Mensah's attorney, John Cermele, argued the case and said the officer had previously been investigated four times by different agencies, and no charges were brought forth, adding he believed Wauwatosa's Police and Fire Commission would ultimately come to the same conclusion.

Cermele then voiced concern about elected officials' recent calls to transition the officer from employment with the police department.

"That is improper. That taints the commission. In the 25 years that I’ve been representing law enforcement officers in the state of Wisconsin I’ve never seen anything like that," said Cermele.

“It may be justified, it may be bad luck, but whatever it is, it’s created an untenable situation in which the officer’s life might be at peril and we’ve lost community confidence," said Wauwatosa Mayor Dennis McBride hours before the special meeting.

The Police and Fire Commission also voted to retain former U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic to independently investigate the complaint. Biskupic reportedly offered to do the work pro bono.

Officer Mensah was already on administrative leave with pay as the Milwaukee County District Attorney reviews the shooting death of Alvin Cole.

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