Special prosecutors appointed to Joseph Mensah’s case alleging homicide of Jay Anderson Jr.

La Crosse district attorney, Milwaukee litigator will decide if officer will be charged

Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah
This undated photo provided by the Wauwatosa Police Department in Wauwatosa, Wis., shows Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah. In a report released Wednesday Oct. 7, 2020, an independent investigator recommended officials in the Milwaukee suburb fire Mensah, who has shot and killed three people in the last five years. Gary Monreal/Monreal Photography LLC/Wauwatosa Police Department via AP

A long-time litigator and a district attorney have been appointed as special prosecutors in the case of Joseph Mensah, a former Wauwatosa police officer who killed a Black man who was sitting in a parked car in 2016.

Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Glenn Yamahiro ruled in July that there is probable cause Mensah committed a crime of homicide by use of a dangerous weapon when he killed Jay Anderson Jr.

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm declined to file charges against Mensah in Anderson’s death, ruling the shooting justified self-defense. Yamahiro’s ruling in July happened under a process known as a John Doe proceeding to decide whether to file charges.

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On Wednesday, Yamahiro appointed Scott Hansen, a litigator with Milwaukee law firm Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren, and La Crosse County District Attorney Tim Gruenke as special prosecutors.

Yamahiro said he wanted fresh eyes to look at the case.

“Regardless of the decision that gets rendered here, I want the community to have confidence that this was given a proper review,” Yamahiro said. “Nothing more than that, nothing less than that.”

Hansen and Gruenke will have 60 days to review the case before deciding whether to charge Mensah.

Hansen is a partner at the law firm where he focuses on resolving complex disputes between businesses or between business and governments, according to the company’s website. He was named 2018 Lawyer of the Year by the Milwaukee Bar Association.

Gruenke has been a prosecutor for 25 years, and has served as La Crosse County district attorney for the last 13. He specializes in sexual assault cases and has been named “Prosecutor of the Year” twice by the Wisconsin District Attorneys Association and twice by the Wisconsin Association of Homicide Investigators.

“These are not a couple of guys with big egos, they are people that are focused on the facts, on the law, and understanding the total situation, and I’m confident that’s what they are going to do in this case,” Yamahiro said.

Mensah was involved in 3 deadly shootings

Mensah, who is Black, said he shot Anderson, 25, as Anderson reached for his gun while in the car at a park in Wauwatosa. According to a Milwaukee Police Department report, Mensah noticed Anderson had a handgun in the front passenger seat while the men were speaking.

Mensah drew his weapon and ordered Anderson to put his hands up. Anderson raised his hands, but according to the report, “on at least four occasions Mr. Anderson started to lower his right arm while leaning toward the front passenger seat where the gun was located.”

The report said Anderson “lunged toward the gun with his right hand” and Mensah shot him five times in the head and once in the right shoulder.

Kimberley Motley, the Anderson family’s attorney, has said she doesn’t believe Anderson was reaching for his gun. Instead, she said he was tired, and his hands were falling forward. A toxicology report found Anderson to be legally intoxicated.

Mensah was involved in three on-duty fatal shootings while he was a police officer in Wauwatosa. Chisholm cleared him of all three. Chisholm’s most recent decision in October, to clear Mensah in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Alvin Cole, sparked a week of protests and arrests in Wauwatosa.

Mensah later resigned from the Wauwatosa Police Department and took a job with the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department.

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