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Communities Await Wauwatosa Officer Decision In Shooting Death Of Teen

Michelle Maternowski
In anticipation of the DA's decision, plywood was put up over windows of business along North Ave. in Wauwatosa Monday.

READ: No Charges For Wauwatosa Officer In Killing Of Black Teen

The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office could announce a decision Wednesday on whether to charge Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah in the death of Alvin Cole.

Mensah shot Cole, who was 17-years-old, in February when responding to a disturbance at Mayfair Mall. Police say Cole ran and fired a weapon. His family disputes the claim.

Cole was Black; so is Mensah.

Cole was the third person to be killed by Mensah in 5 years. In the cases of the other two men, Antonio Gonzalez and Jay Anderson Jr., the district attorney’s office ruled those shootings justified.

The DA’s decision regarding charges in Cole’s death comes during a tense time in the country, and locally, as the public fights against and condemns police violence toward Black and brown communities.

Citizens of Wauwatosa, and the surrounding Milwaukee area, have called for justice, accountability and the removal of Mensah from the Wauwatosa Police Department.

READ: Investigator: Wauwatosa Officer Should Be Fired After Shootings

Numerous protests have been held in the last few months demanding action, including outside Mensah’s home and outside the mayor’s house.

Anticipating potential reaction to the district attorney’s decision, Wauwatosa officials have shut down city hall through Friday. And schools have canceled in-person learning for the remainder of the week.

As the community awaits the news, Deja Vishny, counsel with Motley Legal, says the Cole family is nervous, and hopeful the DA chooses to prosecute Mensah.

"They lost a loved one; Alvin Cole was only 17-years-old at the time his life was snuffed out by Officer Mensah. And I think for parents, it's the hardest thing you can go through is to lose a child. It’s a very emotional time for the family as they await this decision and it's a decision they've been waiting for, for a long time," Vishny says.

She says if the district attorney decides to prosecute, it will “be a strong message to law enforcement that you cannot be reckless with other people's lives.” If the DA chooses not to prosecute, Vishny says, the Cole family’s legal team is prepared to follow up accordingly.

Officer Mensah is currently suspended with pay. He is appealing that decision made by the Wauwatosa Police and Fire Commission.

Mensah’s attorney did not respond to a request for an interview for this story.

But Mensah spoke in a July interview on WISN’s The Dan O’Donnell Show. Mensah said he was angry, frustrated and confused about his suspension, saying, “I was suspended even though they couldn’t say that I did anything wrong.”

Teran is WUWM's race & ethnicity reporter.
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