Former Wauwatosa Officer Cleared In 3 Separate Shootings Now A Sheriff's Deputy

Jan 26, 2021

A police officer in a Milwaukee suburb who resigned after being involved in his third fatal shooting in five years has been hired as a sheriff's deputy.

Joseph Mensah was hired in Waukesha County after an extensive review that found his use of force was proper in all three shootings, Sheriff Eric Severson said Tuesday.

Mensah joined the Wauwatosa force in 2015. He shot Antonio Gonzales that year after police said Gonzales refused to drop a sword. A year later, Mensah shot Jay Anderson Jr. in a car parked in a park after hours. Mensah said he saw a gun on the passenger seat and thought Anderson was reaching for it. He was cleared of wrongdoing in each case.

Mensah, then a Wauwatosa police officer, was cleared in October in the death of Alvin Cole, a Black 17-year-old whom Mensah shot Feb. 2 outside Mayfair Mall in Wauwatosa after police responded to a reported disturbance. Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm said evidence showed Cole fled from officers with a stolen handgun, fired a shot and refused commands to drop the gun.

Cole’s death sparked periodic protests in Wauwatosa, including after the decision not to charge Mensah, who is Black. Though Chief Barry Weber said there was no reason to fire him, Mensah resigned a month after Chisholm declined to charge the officer.

Severson, in a Facebook post, said Mensah would go through a supervised field training program.

Mensah's attorney, Jonathan Cermele, didn't immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Attorney Kimberly Motley represents the families of the three people Mensah killed.

She says that while Severson is confident, she wonders about the people of Waukesha.

“I’m curious to know if the county of Waukesha residents are aware of the enormous legal liability that they have potentially now inherited by the fact that he has been hired as a deputy sheriff,” Motley says.

Motley says Mensah has shown with his use of deadly force that he is a threat.

Motley and others pressured the Wauwatosa Police and Fire Commission to dismiss Mensah, holding numerous protests. An independent probe determined Mensah posed a risk to the City of Wauwatosa, citing the potential for another fatal shooting.

Motley continues to pursue legal action against him.