Former Wisconsin Police Officer Joseph Mensah fatally shot Jay Anderson Jr. in his car nearly six years ago. Now prosecutors say they do not have probable cause to charge him with the shooting.
At the time of the incident, Mensah was an officer in the Wauwatosa Police Department, but he has since been promoted to Waukesha County deputy. According to the Associated Press, on Wednesday, special prosecutors Milwaukee attorney Scott Hansen and La Crosse County District Attorney Tim Gruenke stated they did not have enough evidence to combat a self-defense argument in the event Mensah were to present one during the trial.
In June 2016, Anderson, 25, was asleep in his vehicle in a Wauwatosa park at 3 a.m. However, Officer Mensah alleges that Anderson started reaching for a firearm when he approached the car. Mensah says he instructed Anderson to keep his hands up and refrain from reaching for the weapon. The former officer alleges Anderson defied his commands, so he began firing into Anderson’s car, fatally wounding him.
Prosecutors say they showed dashcam video of the shooting to nine Milwaukee County residents eligible to sit on a jury, and the majority concluded that Mensah acted in self-defense.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, prosecutors said, “The video confirms that Anderson disregarded Mensah’s commands to keep his hands up and instead reached toward the passenger seat where his gun was laying. These actions would have caused a reasonable person to fear an imminent threat of death or great bodily harm and to use deadly force to protect themselves.”
After the shooting, the Milwaukee Police Department, the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and the Wauwatosa Police Department each launched separate investigations into the ordeal. In July 2020, former U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic investigated the matter and found that Mensah acted within his police department’s guidelines. However, he stated some facts about the incident remained “unclear.”
This development comes nearly a year after Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Glenn Yamahiro stated that he found probable cause to charge Mensah with negligence and homicide, PBS reported.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the judge said to the courtroom, “This record is filled with testimony of alternative choices, that Officer Mensah could have chosen to de-escalate the situation, or recover the weapon without shooting Mr. Anderson.” However, prosecutors informed Judge Yamahiro this week that there was “nothing” they could do and that they did not have a case against Mensah.
Anderson is one of three people Mensah has killed in a five-year period, the Associated Press reported.