Rioting broke out Wednesday in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, after the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office revealed it would not charge a black police officer who killed a black teenager in February.
Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah killed Alvin Cole, 17, after a chase in which Cole is alleged to have fired at police. It was the third shooting death in which Mensah was involved, leading an independent investigator to urge the department to fire Mensah before a fourth one could take place.
“In this case, there is sufficient evidence that Officer Mensah had an actual subjective belief that deadly force was necessary and that belief was objectively reasonable,” District Attorney John Chisholm said, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
“I do not believe that the State could disprove self-defense or defense of others in this case and therefore could not meet the burden required to charge Officer Mensah.”
The decision not to charge Mensah triggered protests that soon led to vandalism and violence. As crowds overtook a neighborhood, one homeowner came out to plead with rioters on his property to “[s]how some respect.”
In anticipation of rioting, Wauwatosa’s City Hall was closed.
Is this rioting simply senseless violence?
Looters ravaged a Speedway store late Wednesday, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Police used tear gas to disperse rioters earlier in the evening.
Taleavia Cole, Alvin Cole’s sister, said Chisholm was biased in not charging Mensah.
“All these black families walking in here to meet with you about their loved one that has been killed by Joseph Mensah, and you have yet to not justify it,” she said. “The fight doesn’t end here. We’ve got to make sure Joseph is fired immediately.”
Chisolm said he understood police shootings are controversial, but facts are the facts.
“One thing I won’t do is I won’t change my objective review of the case because of outside factors like that,” he said. “It just wouldn’t be appropriate. I know a lot of people will be angry, a lot of people will be disappointed.”
“These are tough, difficult decisions,” he said.
This was the third shooting death by Mensah while in the line of duty in the last five years. That led independent investigator Steven Biskupic to suggest he be fired, even though Mensah did not improperly use deadly force.
“The risk and ensuing consequences to the Wauwatosa Police Department and the City of Wauwatosa of a fourth shooting by this officer are too great for this commission to find otherwise,” Biskupic said in his report.
A document Chisolm released said Cole attempted to flee police on the night he was killed.
A shot “was discharged from Cole’s vicinity,” the document said, and Cole “went to the ground with a firearm in his right hand.”
“Because it was later determined that Alvin Cole had a graze wound to his left forearm, and because a spent casing was still in the chamber of the firearm recovered from Cole, it is believed that Cole discharged the firearm while running,” Biskupic’s report said.
Officers at the scene said Cole was “ordered to surrender the firearm,” but he pointed it at them instead, leading Mensah to fire five rounds at Cole, killing him.
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