By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
In 2016, former Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah fatally shot Jay Anderson Jr. Prosecutors originally declined to file charges against Mensah, but nearly five years later, it is a different story.
Earlier this week, Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Glenn Yamahiro found probable cause to charge Mensah in the death of Anderson.
According to TMJ4, Yamahiro was asked to review the case through the John Doe process, which allows a judge to question witnesses directly and then determine whether or not to file charges. Yamahiro said there was cause to charge Mensah with homicide by negligent use of a weapon, TMJ4 reported.
During his time with the Wauwatosa Police Department, Mensah shot and killed three people over the course of five years, the Journal Sentinel reported. Mensah is currently a deputy for the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department.
The shootings were ruled as justified self-defense by the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office, according to the Journal Sentinel.
The Milwaukee National Lawyers Guild released a statement applauding Yamahiro’s decision and the work of Kimberly Motley, the Anderson’s lawyer.
“The sheer depth and breadth of the evidence Atty. Motley brought before the court highlighted both Joseph Mensah’s questionable choices, and the many holes in the investigations and procedures by the agencies we have entrusted to hold police accountable,” Ramon Valdez, an attorney and Guild Steering Committee member, said.
In an interview with the Journal Sentinel, Motley seemed please by the outcome as did the Anderson family.
Chief James MacGillis of the Wauwatosa Police Department held a press conference following the announcement on Wednesday, July 28. MacGillis, who recently stepped into his role as chief, expressed his respect for the district attorney’s investigation and the judge’s decision.
“I have never lost sight that a police officer accepts the responsibilities inherent of the job,” MacGillis said. “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.”
MacGillis said he spoke privately with the Anderson family. He said that now is the time for community healing and trust.
“Fair and impartial policing is our highest priority while recognizing the human beings affected by our public safety efforts,” he said. “My role here is to lead this department moving forward to establish this community trust, to rebuild that trust and help the community with its healing.”
A special prosecutor, who will review the case and determine if there is a probable cause to charge Mensah, will be appointed in the months to come.
“We always hear about police who are involved in civilian deaths as ‘bad apples,’ but the whole saying is ‘one bad apple spoils the barrel’,” Emilio De Torre, a Guild Steering Committee member, said. “Holding one officer accountable is an important first step, but there is a bigger picture here that needs to be addressed.”