MILWAUKEE —The ACLU of Wisconsin applauded Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Glenn Yamahiro’s finding today that probable cause exists to charge former Wauwatosa Police officer Joseph Mensah with homicide by negligent use of a dangerous weapon for his role in the fatal shooting of 25-year-old Jay Anderson Jr. in 2016.
A special prosecutor will be assigned to the case within the next 60 days to determine whether to prosecute Mensah for Anderson’s shooting. The special prosecutor will have the discretion to charge Mensah with any criminal offenses related to Anderson’s shooting or decline to charge Mensah at all.
During today’s proceedings, Judge Yamahiro criticized Mensah’s actions leading up to the shooting, saying that Mensah did not follow protocols, putting himself and Anderson at increased risk, and used excessive force in a situation in which multiple people testified that he was not in danger. Anderson was fatally shot in the head after Mensah approached him because he was allegedly sleeping in his car in Wauwatosa’s Madison Park.
After an investigation in 2016, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm declined to bring charges against Mensah, ruling that the shooting was justified self-defense. Anderson’s family, with the diligent assistance of their attorney, Kimberly Motley, has continually disputed Mensah’s claim that Anderson was reaching for a gun as Mensah approached his car before the shooting.
In October 2020, Anderson’s family sought to reopen the investigation into the shooting by initiating a process outlined in Wisconsin law that allows a state circuit court judge to initiate a criminal complaint against someone when a District Attorney refuses or is unable to do so. Under this provision, a judge may, but is not required to, initiate a complaint against a person when they determine that there is probable cause to believe that the person should be charged with the crime.
“After more than five years, the insistence of Anderson’s family to get justice for him was rewarded with a step in the right direction; however, the fact that his family had to be so persistent in their fight emphasizes just how hard it is for police to be held accountable for their actions when they use deadly force in situations where it isn’t needed,” said Tomás Clasen, advocacy director of the ACLU of Wisconsin. “Today is a small move in the right direction, but true justice would be Anderson never having been killed in the first place. Jay deserved better and should still be alive today.”
“Additionally, Mensah remains a deputy in the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Office. Today’s decision has made it even more clear that Mensah is an extraordinary risk to the community and should no longer be employed in law enforcement,” Clasen said.