State Watch

Judge finds probable cause to charge Wisconsin police officer with homicide in 2016 shooting

Judges use a small wooden mallet to signal for attention or order.

A Wisconsin judge said Wednesday there is probable cause to charge a police officer who fatally shot a man sleeping in his car with homicide, five years after a district attorney said the use of deadly force was justified.

Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Glenn Yamahiro said in a hearing that there was probable cause to charge former Wauwatosa officer Joseph Mensah with homicide by negligent handling of a dangerous weapon, ABC News reports.

Mensah, who is now a Waukesha County deputy sheriff, was involved in three fatal on-duty shootings within a five-year period.

In 2016, he fatally shot 25-year-old Jay Anderson Jr. while Anderson was sleeping in his car in a park. Mensah has claimed that he acted in self-defense, saying that Anderson “lunged for a gun.”

Yamahiro noted at the hearing that Anderson was dead in less than six minutes after Mensah entered the park. 

“This decision has not been taken lightly, nor was it predetermined. It is the result of a careful and extensive review of the evidence in this case,” he said.

As ABC News reports, the judge came to this conclusion following a “John Doe hearing,” a legal procedure in Wisconsin that allows a citizen to ask a court to review a district attorney’s decision not to press criminal charges when the citizen believes a crime has occurred.

“There is reason to believe, based on the testimony, that Officer Mensah created an unreasonable, substantial risk of death,” Yamahiro continued, adding that he would be appointing a special prosecutor to review the case and “decide which charge or charges, if any, they believe can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, a far higher standard than probable cause.”

Yamahiro also noted that Mensah failed to turn on his emergency lights, which would have automatically turned on his dash camera. However, his body camera automatically activated and recorded about 25 seconds of the incident.

Yamahiro said a special prosecutor will “decide which charge or charges, if any, they believe can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, a far higher standard than probable cause.”

“What happened today is historic not just for the state of Wisconsin but for this country,” Kimberley Motley, an attorney for Anderson’s family, said, according to ABC.

The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office declined ABC’s request for comment.

“We feel good. This is something that should have been done five years ago. This is justice, you guys, this is justice,” Anderson’s father Jay Anderson Sr. told the news outlet.

In February of last year, Mensah also fatally shot 17-year-old Alvin Cole outside a local mall, sparking several nights of protests. Mensah resigned from the Wauwatosa force in November, not long after Police Chief Barry Weber said he disagreed with a recommendation that Mensah be fired.

Tags deaths in police custody Jay Anderson Jr. Joseph Mensah Killing of Alvin Cole police brutality police killings Police shootings Probable cause Wisconsin

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