Joseph Mensah, a Black police officer in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin who has been the focal point of controversy over three fatal on-duty shootings, says protesters assaulted, punched, tried to kill, and shot at him and his girlfriend at her house on Saturday night, August 8. He claims they were chanting “Black Lives Matter” during the incident.
In a Facebook post written in the early morning hours of August 9, Mensah wrote,
Last night, protesters came to my girlfriend’s house while I was there, and tried to kill me. I was unarmed and tried to defend my property and the property of my girlfriend. We were both assaulted, punched, and ultimately shot at several times. A shotgun round missed me by inches. Not once did I ever swing back or reciprocate any the hate that was being directed at me. I am all for peaceful protests, even against me, but this was anything but peaceful. They threw toilet paper in her trees, broke her windows, and again, shot at both of us as they were trying to kill me. There are children that live there any the knew that. The irony in all of this is that they chanted Black Lives Matter the entire time, but had zero regard for any of the black children that live there or me, a black man.
Vaun Mayes, a prominent and controversial Black Lives Matter activist in Milwaukee, wrote Heavy through Facebook after being asked to comment: “What I will say is they are taking advantage of the moment. I can’t say who lead what. What I can say is I didn’t lead a damn thing and what happened should NOT have…. Yes, they got into a scuffle with some protestors. From what witnesses say, Mensah grabbed at one of the protestors weapons on a sling and the gun fired.” You can read Mayes’ full comment later in this article.
After reaching out to Mensah for comment, he wrote Heavy through Facebook: “There is a difference between a peaceful protest, and a plan to trespass on private property with the intent to damage it. My girlfriend and I had every right to defend the property from those that trespassed on it. At the end of the day, protesters chose to come to that house, no one forced them to. They chose to stay, they chose to damage property, they chose to assault us. Their decision to come onto the porch, continue their assault on unarmed and defenseless police officers, and ultimately try kill me was their decision, and their decision alone. The incident is currently under investigation and the evidence will speak for itself.”
The morning after the incident, a Wauwatosa police car was sitting near the home. Remnants of toilet paper and silly string and crime scene tape were visible in the yard, and a window appeared smashed.
On July 25, Mensah wrote on his Facebook page,
If black lives matter, which I wholeheartedly do believe, then the lives of all of the black men and women in law enforcement matter just as much. Our uniforms may be blue but our skin is just as black and our heritage is just as rich. We swore an oath to the public but that oath is also extends to our families and loved ones which we will fight to go home to each and every day. Not a single march, protest, lawyer, or threat can change the fact that in the eyes of God, our lives are just as important.
Mensah was suspended with pay in June after shooting and killing three people while on duty in the last five years. The first shooting dates to 2015. John Chisholm, the Milwaukee County District Attorney, found the first two shootings to be justified self-defense. He’s still reviewing the third shooting, of Alvin Cole, 17, outside a major shopping mall, Mayfair, which occurred in February. In all three cases, police said the people shot were armed (two with firearms and one with a sword, police say), although community activists and family members have raised questions about the shootings and repeatedly called for Mensah’s termination and prosecution. Police have said Cole fired first at Mensah, which activists question. Jay-Z’s social justice group has called for Mensah’s firing in advertisements, writing, “If you fail to prosecute Mensah, you’re doing a disservice to the legacies of Alvin Cole, Antonio Gonzales and Jay Anderson, ignoring the lives of black, brown and LGBTQ citizens in your county and essentially allowing for the possibility of a future catastrophe.”
After the death of George Floyd, the mall, Mayfair, has become the center of major protests into Mensah as has City Hall and the police department. Many people called for the officer’s firing at a community meeting held by city officials. The situation has been tense for some time. At that meeting, one man got attention by telling officials that, if the officer is allowed to keep his job, he would drive around with his headlights out until he finds him. In the midst of that turmoil, the Wauwatosa Common Council passed a resolution urging Mensah’s firing (the resolutions says, “It is imperative that the City facilitate the transition of Officer Joseph Mensah from employment by the Wauwatosa Police Department.”) The Fire and Police Commission, which has the power to fire Mensah, then suspended him with pay, and it was announced that a former U.S. Attorney will investigate the three shootings.
A press release provided to Heavy by the City of Wauwatosa Police Department detailed the incident,
On August 8th, 2020 at approximately 8:05 PM, a large group gathered in the area of N. 100th St. and W. Vienna St. in the City of Wauwatosa. The group, estimated to be between fifty and sixty people, targeted the private residence of Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah and began to vandalize the home. Officer Mensah attempted to establish a dialog with the group but was ultimately physically assaulted outside of his home. As Officer Mensah retreated into his home, armed protestors approached the rear door and a single shotgun round was discharged by a member of the group into Officer Mensah’s backdoor. The Wauwatosa Police Department received assistance in disbursing the crowd form numerous neighboring agencies.
They said that an investigation into the incident is ongoing.
This is domestic terrorism. Local, county, state, and federal officials must take action. https://t.co/YF3ZhIV0bF
— Scott Walker (@ScottWalker) August 9, 2020
Scott Walker, the former governor of Wisconsin, commented on the incident on Twitter. Retweeting the Wauwatosa Police Department’s press release and a tweet from Dan O’Donnell, Walker wrote, “This is domestic terrorism. Local, county, state, and federal officials must take action.
Heavy reached out to four prominent Milwaukee-area Black Lives Matter activists seeking comment: Mayes, Khalil Coleman, Frank Nitty and Tory Lowe. It appears from their social media posts that Nitty and Lowe were out of town marching through Indiana when the incident occurred. Heavy has also reached out to Wauwatosa’s Mayor Dennis McBride and to the Wauwatosa Police Department and to Officer Mensah himself.
In a statement sent to Heavy via email, Mayor McBride commented on the Saturday night incident, as well as on other recent protests demanding Mensah be fired. He wrote, “Last night, approximately 50 people assembled at the private residence of Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah, engaged in a protest, and began to vandalize his home. Officer Mensah tried to engage in a dialogue with them but was physically assaulted. As he retreated into his home, armed protesters approached the rear door and one fired a shotgun round into his back door. The Wauwatosa Police Department received assistance in dispersing the crowd from numerous neighboring agencies. The WPD’s investigation into this incident is ongoing. In recent weeks, various groups have protested in Wauwatosa, demanding that Officer Mensah be fired. The City of Wauwatosa has always supported and protected the right to peaceful protest. Last night’s event was not a peaceful protest; it was criminal behavior. If the perpetrators of this criminal behavior are identified, they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent allowed by law.” You can read Mayor McBride’s full statement later in the article.
The mayor previously stated that the officer’s life could be in danger if he was allowed to return to the streets.
“What will happen if Officer Mensah returns to regular street patrols and shoots and kills a fourth person, even if it is justified?” McBride said in an August 4 interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “This will place him and the city in an extraordinarily difficult situation – morally, legally, and financially – and make it even more likely that his life will be in danger.”
“I’m signing it today,” McBride said previously of the Common Council resolution urging Mensah’s firing. “We understand, it’s not just community pressure, that’s substantial. We hear it. We’ve heard it, but the experts tell us it’s extraordinarily rare, perhaps unique for one officer to be involved in three shootings that result in death while employed, especially in a five-year period. We find that a difficult situation to continue, and we also worry about putting him back on the street because he may be the target of somebody who may be displeased with him.”
The Wauwatosa Peace Officer’s Association accused the mayor and Common Council to the Journal Sentinel of having “engaged in actions to unlawfully influence and pressure the police and fire commission” and says Mensah was denied due process, which they in turn deny.
Here’s what you need to know:
Mayes Said He Didn’t Agree With Officer Mensah & His Girlfriend ‘Playing Total Victims’
The evening of the incident, Mayes posted a cryptic comment on Facebook that led to a flurry of people saying they would inbox him. “What in the entire f*** fam,” he wrote. He also posted a Facebook Live video that night that shows people at a local Target store.
Heavy reached out to him and asked for comment, including whether he was there and what he knew about what happened. Here is his comment in full:
What I will say is they are taking advantage of the moment. I can’t say who lead what. What I can say is I didn’t lead a damn thing and what happened should NOT have. I believe he and his wife are capitalizing to gain empathy and more donors, as they’ve already made 60k + in donations from him being suspended. Yes, they got into a scuffle with some protestors. From what witnesses say, Mensah grabbed at one of the protestors weapons on a sling and the gun fired. I do not believe any more shots than that one went off. I think protestors went to toilet paper his home and put up crime scene tape, and encountered Mensah and his GF or wife outside, possibly in the middle of a move. Mensah came out with a huge dog, which started the drama, there was some issue with him possibly pepper spraying into the crowd, which led to whatever did happen physically. I hate this situation is about to be blown up, because I support protests, and I in particular believe public figures homes/addresses are fair game to be protested, as they’ve always been in high profile incidents, not just police. If I were Mensah and his wife I would not have come outside to engage protestors, especially physically, which I’m sure they may have done so to in their mind protect property from being possibly damaged maybe.
Incidents like this happen when the families pile up without answers or justice, and honestly I’m glad neither they nor any protestors were seriously hurt or shot. I don’t agree with them playing total victims, as I can’t say if he did or didn’t pepper spray folks, or that them physically confronting protestors were the cause of whatever physically happened. These groups have been peaceful for months prior to this, and leaders/organizers have done a lot of work to ensure and enforce safety and peace. I know this incident will be seen as a stain, and a lot of folks may try to diminish the work and good that have come from these protests. I want elected officials and legislators to know is that we need change and reform NOW so that these incidents and protests don’t happen and aren’t necessary because the root issues not being addressed and fixed are the reason these things are happening and can possibly escalate. They may feel justified in protecting one another and their property, but the protestors may feel justified in defending themselves in their minds as well. I stand by the fact that Joseph Mensah should be fired and shouldnt be an officer, but I also will say this was unfortunate and this and any future or past incidents like it are on the hands and watch of legislators who refused to address and fix it by listening to solutions instead of posturing/picking one side over the other. You can support law enforcement without posturing against the people/community. I hope this incident is not also seen as an opportunity for law enforcement to try and blame leaders, in particular myself. I would never assault anyone, and I would never lead or encourage violence at protests, as most leaders wouldn’t either, although I know I can’t possibly speak for everyone. Activists are not liable for individuals and their actions, or at least they shouldn’t be. These are my comments on the situation, and I’ll screenshot and screen record my words in case they are skewed.
A previous arrest of Mayes by Milwaukee police accusing him of suspicion of burglary has sparked a lot of controversy in the community. He has not been charged in that case. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Mayes is “on pretrial release for a federal case in which he’s accused of conspiracy to commit arson and witness intimidation” relating to 2016 unrest in Milwaukee.
Mensah’s girlfriend shared photos on Facebook highlighting the scrapes and bruises she says she sustained when she was “physically attacked” Saturday night. With the photos, she wrote, “Joseph and I were shot at today. Shot by cowards who were inches away from us, but missed. They shot into MY home. One gun was a shotgun. They physically attacked Joseph and I. They broke the windows to MY house. They shot into my house causing damage to the brick. You proved nothing today. Now, I have to come up with the funds to replace your damages that proved nothing. You completely forgot what this movement is about. There is a high volume of children on that block that you could have harmed. I WILL still be returning to work to protect the community that I love though.”
A Wisconsin Lawmaker Says ‘No One Tried to Kill’ Mensah or His Girlfriend
Democratic State Representative David Bowen issued a statement on Facebook on August 10 disputing Mensah’s account of what happened. Bowen said it was Mensah who was the aggressor:
During this important era of activism, I make it my duty to go out everyday with protestors to make sure that the citizens fighting for change in this critical moment aren’t taken advantage of or repressed by authorities. My presence as an elected official speaks volumes to people we come in contact with. What I observed on Saturday outside Officer Mensah’s home was an out-of-control, yelling & aggressive man that came out of his house with the goal to provoke peaceful protestors and incite violence.
In the streets every single day are brave Wisconsinites who have protested peacefully for over 70 days, singing and chanting in the streets for change. All of them agree on one important issue: justice has not been served for victims and their families. Joseph Mensah choosing to come out of his house aggressively to provoke these passionate people, many of whom have lost someone they loved, who want to change this broken system is disturbing. None of them displayed any behavior to welcome the provoking threats of violence by Joseph Mensah.
Bowen said Mensah and the police are falsely playing the victim in the incident:
The victim narrative put forth by Mensah and now the Wauwatosa Police Department is totally inaccurate, irresponsible and false. In my time at the protest in front of Mensah’s home, I personally felt threatened by his actions: spraying pepper spray into the crowd, yelling & inviting protestors to fight him, taking his big dog out to potentially attack people. What ‘responsible’ person, supposedly looking for a peaceful conversation, would do those things?
This was not the first protest outside of an individual’s home; there have been protests and gospel concerts held in front of many influential leader’s homes. Chief Webber, Chief Morales, DA Chisholm & Mayor Barrett. All of those times were peaceful and occurred without incident. This time would’ve been no different had Officer Mensah not decided to confront the crowd.
In his statement, Bowen said Mensah’s life was not at risk and said Mensah is lying about the incident and it is another reason he should not be a police officer:
No one tried to kill him or his girlfriend. That’s a lie. No one tried to enter his home. That’s a lie. There weren’t several shots fired. Another lie. No protestor shot at the back door. That’s the biggest lie. Joseph Mensah chose to engage with a protestor, and pulled the trigger on that individual’s firearm. From my own experiences Saturday night and the statements made in the time since, I have concluded that Joseph Mensah’s credibility must be questioned. I personally believe that he can not be trusted to tell the truth.
In sum, Officer Mensah’s actions on Saturday night as well as the elaborate story he’s chosen to concoct in the wake of those events highlight one important truth: Joseph Mensah is not fit to represent any community as an officer of the law, and he needs to be removed from that position immediately.
The Wauwatosa Police responded to Bowen’s statement with a post on Facebook of its own, writing on the evening of August 10, “The Wauwatosa Police Department has seen Rep. Bowen’s statement, and the facts do not support his comments. The investigation remains open and ongoing. We anticipate releasing more information once it is completed.”
A Brief Video & Photos Emerged From the Scene
#breaking reports of shots fired into a home near 100th and Vienna on the northwest side of Milwaukee….. a number of people at the scene say a protest was in the area during the incident…. A number of law enforcement agencies are in the area. pic.twitter.com/ue6KMjZodf
— Steven Radmer (@Steven_R) August 9, 2020
Brief video and photos emerged from the scene where Mensah says the attack occurred on the evening of August 8 in Wauwatosa near the Milwaukee border. Steven Radmer, a photojournalist at WISN-TV, who posted them on his Twitter page, wrote, “#breaking reports of shots fired into a home near 100th and Vienna on the northwest side of Milwaukee….. a number of people at the scene say a protest was in the area during the incident…. A number of law enforcement agencies are in the area.” Heavy has the direct address where the incident occurred but is withholding it.
— Steven Radmer (@Steven_R) August 9, 2020
There was a protest organized at Mayfair Mall on August 8, although it’s not clear which group of protesters is accused of being involved in the alleged incident at Mensah’s house. “Saturday August 8th at 2:00pm we’re meeting in the Currie Park parking lot (3535 N Mayfair Rd, Wauwatosa, WI 53222.) We will leave no later that 3:30pm in order to do a complete shutdown of both Mayfair Mall and The Cheesecake Factory. Yup, we’re coming for your money Wauwatosa and we won’t stop until we see Joseph Mensah along with his accomplice ‘Chief’ Barry Weber fired,” one widely shared Facebook post reads. Weber is the Wauwatosa police chief.
Cole’s family has been vocal in the media. “We’re hurt and we’re still working and that Joseph needs to be dealt with, he needs to be fired, he needs to be convicted. He should have never had a chance to kill again,” Taleavia Cole, Alvin’s sister, told Spectrum News in June. That story said the Milwaukee DA was given new evidence into Cole’s death.
Police say that Cole fired a gun before he was shot by Mensah; his family says they have evidence that’s not true, according to Fox 6. “This isn’t right. It’s not right. This is the third time this has happened and it has to stop. Period,” Cole family attorney Kimberley Motley said of Mensah’s shootings in a June interview with that television station.
In July, Mensah wrote on Facebook,
Despite having evidence PROVING I have done nothing wrong, I have been suspended without a reason, without an explanation, WITHOUT CAUSE.
I sincerely hope all of my friends in the Law Enforcement community pay close attention to what’s being done to me. If you make the decision to defend your life, or the life of others, this is what will happen to you.
It’s been made very clear to me that my life does not matter and never did. If I had died instead, none of this would be happening. Let all of that sink in…
A local woman wrote on Facebook on August 8, “In under a minute I heard a gunshot and a window being smashed at the protest. Yall be safe.”
Heavy asked Mayor Dennis McBride for comments regarding the incident; in an email sent Sunday afternoon, McBride issued the following statement:
Last night, approximately 50 people assembled at the private residence of Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah, engaged in a protest, and began to vandalize his home. Officer Mensah tried to engage in a dialogue with them but was physically assaulted. As he retreated into his home, armed protesters approached the rear door and one fired a shotgun round into his back door. The Wauwatosa Police Department received assistance in dispersing the crowd from numerous neighboring agencies. The WPD’s investigation into this incident is ongoing.
In recent weeks, various groups have protested in Wauwatosa, demanding that Officer Mensah be fired. The City of Wauwatosa has always supported and protected the right to peaceful protest. Last night’s event was not a peaceful protest; it was criminal behavior. If the perpetrators of this criminal behavior are identified, they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent allowed by law.
Tomorrow morning, I will be meeting with the Police Chief, the City Administrator, the City Attorney, and other City officials to determine which steps can be taken to ensure that Officer Mensah is fully protected and that criminal behavior of this kind will not happen again.
On July 14, the Common Council and I issued a statement asking the Police Chief and the City Administrator to facilitate the transition of Officer Mensah from WPD employment. Nevertheless, every Common Council member and I support our police department. Every Common Council member and I support Officer Mensah’s right to due process under the U.S. and Wisconsin Constitutions and, as a police officer, to the additional due process protections found in the Wisconsin Statutes. Under Wisconsin law, the decision as to whether he will be fired, as demanded in a citizen complaint, belongs solely to the Wauwatosa Police & Fire Commission, and that Commission must be given a full opportunity to carry out its deliberations.
During this difficult time, I ask all members of the community to reflect on their personal responsibility to engage in responsible and civil behavior. Now more than ever, it is essential that we all work together to heal a divided community. This will require patience and an understanding that, though changes must occur, they can only occur through the functioning of democratic processes and not through violence.
A GoFundMe Page for Officer Mensah Has Raised More Than $70,000
Mensah has also received some strong community support. There is a controversial GoFundMe page for Officer Mensah that has raised more than $70,000. It was organized by his brother.
The GoFundMe page reads,
I am Christopher Mensah–brother of Wauwatosa Police Officer, Joseph Anthony Mensah. Although we have received ample support from the Wauwatosa Police Department, Joseph has had to overcome the dissemination of false information about his personal life, slander, and defamation from multiple sources. Joseph has been treated unfairly and unjustly by mob mentality and anti-police rhetoric. The Mensah family has full confidence in the attorney paid for by the WPOA, who is currently representing Joseph during the proceedings with the Wauwatosa Police and Fire Commission. We are raising funds to pay for legal counsel to explore and take legal action against those that have unjustly accused him of wrongdoing, interfered with his ability to receive due process, and wrongly besmirched his character and integrity. Joseph is a well-known, respected, and decorated Police Officer, who has placed the public’s safety and trust before his own. His service to the community began in 2009 when he first joined law enforcement as a volunteer Reserve Police Officer, serving the same city that has now unjustly suspended him. In regards to the officer involved shootings associated with Joseph from 2015 and 2016, investigations were conducted by the Wauwatosa Police Dept., Milwaukee Police Dept., Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office, and the United States Attorney’s Office. In both of those investigations, it was determined that Joseph’s actions were justified, and he did not violate any laws or department policies/procedures. The Mensah family plans to fight all the inaccurate dissemination of information and defamation of character which have been made. This will allow Joseph to clear his name so that he can be able to continue doing what he loves the most, and that is serving the community.