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Wisconsin Police Officer Not Charged In Fatal Shooting Of A Black Teen


A familiar kind of story is playing out in Wisconsin right now. A police officer shot and killed a Black teen in February. A prosecutor has decided not to press charges, and a grieving community demands to know how that decision was reached. From member station WUWM in Milwaukee, LaToya Dennis reports.

LATOYA DENNIS, BYLINE: After the decision was announced not to bring criminal charges against the police officer, protesters outside the Milwaukee County courthouse chanted the name of the Black teen he killed.






DENNIS: Cole was the third person Officer Joseph Mensah fatally shot during his five years on the force. Cole's sister, Taleavia, accused the district attorney of being biased toward police for not bringing charges.

TALEAVIA COLE: All these Black families walking in here to meet with you about their loved one that has been killed by Joseph Mensah, and you have yet to not justify it.

DENNIS: Mensah, who is also Black, was responding to a report of a disturbance at a shopping center in the Milwaukee suburb of Wauwatosa. Cole, who was 17, had a gun. And Mensah has said he believed Cole fired at police. Still, neither Mensah's explanation or the district attorney's decision not to file criminal charges is enough to convince Sean Lowe. He lives in Wauwatosa and chairs the city's Equity and Inclusion Commission, which includes the police chief and the city administrator.

SEAN LOWE: All three shootings were questionable. All three shootings, there's a huge asterisk next to them on whether they could have been prevented.

DENNIS: With the first shooting in 2015, Mensah fired his weapon at a man wielding a sword outside of his home after he failed to follow directions and drop the weapon. The second shooting involved a man who was intoxicated and sleeping it off in his car at a park. A gun was found in his vehicle. Lowe says Mensah should be fired because he is too quick to resort to violence.

LOWE: Any time he gets into a situation he can't handle, he just feels I can pull out my gun and kill these people and the situation's over.

DENNIS: A report released on Wednesday by a former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin came to the same conclusion. The Wauwatosa Police and Fire Commission is expected to review the report and decide whether to keep Mensah on the force. For NPR News, I'm LaToya Dennis in Milwaukee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

LaToya Dennis
LaToya Dennis joined WUWM in October 2006 as a reporter / producer. LaToya began her career in public radio as a part-time reporter for WKAR AM/FM in East Lansing, Michigan. She worked as general assignment reporter for WKAR for one and a half years while working toward a master's degree in Journalism from Michigan State University. While at WKAR, she covered General Motors plant closings, city and state government, and education among other critical subjects.