A Wisconsin police officer, who killed three people in the line of duty over five years, will not be charged in a fatal 2016 shooting of a 25-year-old man he found sleeping inside a car at a park, special prosecutors said Wednesday.
The special prosecutors, Milwaukee attorney Scott Hansen and La Crosse County District Attorney Tim Gruenke, announced their review of the incident did not find any legal basis for charging former Wauwatosa police officer Joseph Mensah in the shooting of Jay Anderson Jr.
Mensah, who is now a detective at the Waukesha, Wisconsin, County Sheriff's Office, told investigators that after approaching Anderson's parked car around 3 a.m. on June 23, 2016, he noticed a handgun lying on the front seat, according to a synopsis from the Milwaukee Police Department, which investigated the shooting. He claimed that Anderson initially complied with his orders to keep his hands up, but then lunged for the gun, prompting him to use deadly force.
Dash-camera video from Mensah's squad car showed him shooting Anderson. The autopsy determined Anderson was shot five times in the head and once in the shoulder.
Hansen said Wednesday that a criminal case would have been hard to prove beyond reasonable doubt to a jury that Mensah did not act in self-defense when he shot Anderson.
"We believe the evidence will not permit that," Hansen said.
The decision by the special prosecutors appears to align with a decision made by Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm in 2016 not to charge Mensah.
Chisholm previously cleared Mensah in the fatal 2020 shooting of a 17-year-old, who allegedly refused commands to drop a stolen gun, and the 2015 fatal shooting of a 29-year-old man, who allegedly refused orders to drop a sword.
Milwaukee County Judge Glenn Yamahiro appointed the special prosecutors to review the case last year after hearing evidence in a so-called John Doe hearing that an attorney for Anderson's family sought. Yamahiro found probable cause to bring homicide charges against Mensah, concluding the evidence showed the officer did not act in self-defense and was negligent in the handling of a dangerous weapon when he shot Anderson.
But the judge declined to file charges and opted to have the case reviewed by special prosecutors he appointed.
Yamahiro denied a motion filed Wednesday by Kimberley Motley, the Anderson family's lawyer, to appoint new special prosecutors to review the case again.
But Yamahiro said, "I continue to believe that this entire tragedy was avoidable."
Following Wednesday's hearing, Anderson's mother, Linda Anderson, vowed to keep fighting for justice for her son.
"I'm not stopping until that man is behind bars, where he needs to be," Linda Anderson said.
There was no immediate comment from Mensah.