A lawyer filed another complaint against a former Wisconsin police officer who shot and killed three people, saying his department taught him to view black people as dangerous
MADISON, Wisconsin – A lawyer representing the families of three people who died at the hands of a former Wisconsin police officer on Wednesday filed another federal lawsuit against him, saying his department had taught him to view black people as dangerous.
The lawsuit alleges that former Wauwatosa police officer Joseph Mensah violated Jay Anderson’s constitutional rights when he shot Anderson after he was found sleeping in a park after hours in 2016. According to the lawsuit, Anderson followed all of Mensah’s orders, but Mensah still viewed him as a threat. because he was black.
Mensah, who is black, said Anderson was looking for a gun and a county prosecutor declined to lay charges in the case.
The lawsuit alleges that Wauwatosa and his police department have a history of racist officers stretching back decades, highlighting police nights in the late 1980s and late 1990s where officers dressed in blackface and literature from the Ku Klux Klan were present but the officers were never disciplined. The lawsuit also claims the city is 95% white but blacks accounted for 83% of arrests in 2018.
“Mensah, having learned the lessons of a police department beset by racism and racial discrimination, immediately decided that a black man sleeping in his car was suspicious and dangerous,” lawyer Kimberley Motley wrote in the trial. “The WPD devalues people of color which is reflected in their black over-police.”
The case seeks unspecified damages from Mensah, the town and former Wauwatosa police chief Barry Weber. Online court records do not list lawyers for Mensah or Weber. Wauwatosa City District Attorney Alan Kesner did not immediately respond to a message Wednesday morning.
Mensah joined the Wauwatosa Police Department in 2015. In that year, he shot and killed Antonio Gonzales, who identified himself as Latin and American Indian. Prosecutors said Gonzales refused to drop a sword.
The following year, he found out that Anderson was sleeping in his car in a park around 3 a.m. Motley maintains that Anderson never touched the gun.
Last year Mensah shot dead Alvin Cole, 17, as he fled from police following a disruption at a shopping center. Cole was black. Mensah said he shot him because he pointed a gun at him. This shooting sparked months of protests.
Prosecutors have chosen not to bring charges against Mensah in any of the shootings. Motley filed a federal lawsuit against Mensah on behalf of Gonzales’ family in July. She is also considering filing one on Cole’s death.
Motley also used a John Doe proceeding, a little-known Wisconsin legal maneuver similar to a grand jury inquiry, to persuade Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Glenn Yamahiro to order a special prosecutor to consider indict Mensah in the Anderson case. The judge is expected to make the appointment this month.
Mensah resigned from the Wauwatosa Police Department in November 2020 and joined the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department.
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