Wisconsin police officer in string of fatal shootings will not be charged in killing of teen; firing recommended

Alvin Cole, 17, was fatally shot by police in February.

Protesters took to the streets in Wisconsin on Wednesday after the Milwaukee County district attorney announced he would not press charges against the police officer who fatally shot a Black teenager outside of a mall earlier this year.

Alvin Cole, 17, was fatally shot by Wauwatosa Officer Joseph Mensah on Feb. 2, the third fatal shooting by Mensah in the past five years, Milwaukee ABC affiliate WISN reported. The prior shootings were ruled justified, but local civil rights activists have advocated for the officer's firing.

Despite not pressing charges, the report did call for Mensah's firing by the police department. The police department also released body camera footage from the shooting, chronicling the encounter frame by frame.

Wauwatosa Mayor Dennis McBride issued a statement immediately after the announcement and urged residents to remain calm after crowds gathered near the Milwaukee County Courthouse.

"Given recent events in Kenosha, Louisville, and other cities around the country, it should be clear that we all must do everything we can to keep our community peaceful. Violence is not the answer; it only impoverishes communities and brings more pain and despair," McBride said in the statement.

"I ask all people, regardless of their viewpoints, to remain peaceful and calm as we work our way through this difficult time," he added. "We all must keep each other safe."

City officials implemented a 7 p.m. nightly curfew beginning Wednesday. Residents were asked to stay home and gas stations were ordered to close.

Late Wednesday, Wauwatosa police declared an unlawful assembly and said they had fired gas to disperse demonstrators who police said had thrown rocks at businesses.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers had mobilized the state's National Guard in the hours leading up to the announcement in case of possible protest. The National Guard and police had established a perimeter around the Wauwatosa City Hall, officials said late Wednesday.

He said his office approved a request from local authorities for assistance and mobilized troops this week in advance of the anticipated decision.

"One of our core missions in the Wisconsin National Guard is to serve our fellow citizens and preserve public safety," Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp, commander of the Wisconsin National Guard, said in a statement ahead of the decision. "Our Citizen Soldiers and Airmen live and work in the same communities all across Wisconsin, and we're well-trained and prepared to assist our neighbors in any way we can."

Wauwatosa police said Cole fired a gun at officers before his death, but an attorney for Cole's family denied those claims, citing video evidence and witness statements.

Family members admitted that he had a gun, but said he never pointed it police.

An independent report confirmed that Cole was armed with a stolen pistol and that he shot himself in the arm before he was killed. He was on his knees as officers surrounded him, the report said. Police told Cole to drop his gun before he was shot. Cole never fired any shots at officers. Mensah was the only officer to fire any shots, according to the report.

"At the time Cole's firearm was recovered from the pavement of the parking lot, there was a spent casing in the chamber of the gun," the district attorney's office said in a statement Wednesday. "The loaded extended magazine was recovered from the inside of the sling bag, indicating that the firearm was only capable of firing a round that was in the chamber. This means that Cole, presuming he fired the one round in the chamber as he was running, did not have any more bullets in the gun at the time he was shot."

Mensah has fatally shot three men in the last five years and was cleared in both previous killings, according to the report. Mensah shot Jay Anderson Jr. six times in 2016 after he found him sleeping in a parked car. The officer claimed that he saw a gun inside and thought Anderson was reaching for it, according to police. And in 2015, he shot another man, Antonio Gonzales, eight times after he refused to drop a sword, according to police.

The independent report released Wednesday recommended that Mensah be fired because the risk of him shooting a fourth person was too great. Given Mensah's notoriety, people could bait him into shooting them, exposing the city to lawsuits costing millions of dollars, the report said.

It also said Mensah violated policies preventing officers from speaking about pending investigations when he gave a radio interview and spoke about the shooting on a podcast in July. He allegedly provided misleading information during the interview by failing to correct an interviewer who stated that Cole shot at him, according to the report.

The decision not to press charges came amid ongoing demonstrations around the country against police brutality in the wake of several officer-involved shooting deaths involving Black victims, many of them unarmed.

ABC News' William Gretsky contributed to this report.

This report was featured in the Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020, episode of “Start Here,” ABC News’ daily news podcast.

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