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Families Of Men Shot By Wauwatosa Police Officer Rally And Call For Justice

Chuck Quirmbach
Tracy Cole, mother of Alvin Cole, speaks at Saturday's rally. A portrait of her son, and photos of Jay Anderson, Jr. and Antonio Gonzales are held behind her.

The current national protests against police brutality began nearly two weeks ago, when George Floyd died while in the custody of Minneapolis officers. In Milwaukee, there's a growing spotlight on Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah, who fatally shot 17-year-old Alvin Cole outside Mayfair Mall in February. The Milwaukee Police Department is reviewing the shooting.

Wauwatosa police say Cole fired first with a stolen gun. But during a Saturday afternoon rally at N. 76th St. and W. Burleigh St. in Milwaukee, Cole's mother, Tracy Cole, said Mensah killed her baby boy.

"He's a child.  How dare Joseph take my son from me. My baby boy. I cannot sleep. I cannot function. I cannot think because you took my baby from me," Tracy Cole said.

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Alvin Cole's sister, Taleavia Cole, said Alvin Cole was due to graduate from high school this spring, then join her this fall at Jackson State University in Mississippi. She said a Wisconsin law passed a few years ago to have other law enforcement agencies investigate police shootings is flawed.

"We want change. We want laws changed. We want change in who investigates these police shootings, because obviously, [law enforcement] are working with each other,”  Taleavia Cole said.

She said Milwaukee needs a citizens council to review police shootings. She also said her family is scheduled to meet this week with Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm.

"We're going to tell you what Chisholm says. We're going to tell you if he's going to convict Joseph Mensah, and we're going to do another press conference, and another march, and another rally until it happens,”  Taleavia Cole promised.

The Cole family says one of the things that troubles them the most is that Mensah also shot Jay Anderson, Jr., an African American, to death in 2016, and that Mensah and another officer killed Antonio Gonzales, a Latino, in 2015.

Police say they believe Anderson was reaching for a gun in his car, and that Gonzalez refused to drop a sword he was wielding. In each case, authorities ruled Mensah acted in self-defense.

Credit Chuck Quirmbach / WUWM
Gloria Speed, aunt of Jay Anderson, Jr., speaks at Saturday's rally.

Jay Anderson Jr.'s mother, Linda Anderson, said she was shocked when she learned that Mensah shot Alvin Cole. Linda Anderson said she knows what the Coles are going through.

"It's been the worst four years of my life not having my son with me. His anniversary death date is on the 23rd of this month. We have got to put [Mensah] in jail. He does not need to be out on the street to take somebody else's life. It's sick!  It's disgusting!” she exclaimed.

Linda Anderson began crying and couldn't continue.  

About 200 people attended the rally, including longtime Milwaukee activist Brian Verdin. He said he's seen decades of clashes between Milwaukee residents and Wauwatosa police.

Credit Chuck Quirmbach / WUWM
Marchers traveled west on Burleigh Street toward Mayfair Mall.

"It's kind of an unwritten thing that once you cross 60th Street in Milwaukee going west, you'd better be on guard because the police like messing with people, especially if you're black or brown," Verdin said.  

A Wauwatosa police lieutenant told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Mensah is only on duty inside the police station and doesn't work with the public.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Kent Lovern told WUWM that the DA's office has been in frequent contact with the Cole family's attorneys and has shared all the evidence in the matter with them.   

Credit Chuck Quirmbach / WUWM
Marchers outside the Cheesecake Factory restaurant at Mayfair Mall, in the parking lot where Alvin Cole died.

After the rally, the protestors peacefully marched a few miles to Mayfair Mall and stood in the area of the parking lot where Alvin Cole died.  A few Wauwatosa police vehicles were visible, but officers did not interact with the protestors. Large concrete barriers blocked driveways into the parking lot.

Chuck Quirmbach joined WUWM in August 2018. He focuses his longform stories on health, innovation, science, technology, transportation, utilities and business.
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