Rush To Justification
On March 25th, 2021, day two of the John Doe Hearing commenced. If you missed day one, you can catch up via our article https://neverstopvoices.com/blogs/news/this-wasnt-an-investigation-this-was-justification First on the agenda was argument to be heard on Wauwatosa Police Chief Weber’s Motion to Quash his Subpoena. Chief Weber's reasoning behind his fight against this subpoena was that Milwaukee Police Department was the sole investigative agency in charge of the shooting of Jay Anderson Jr., by former Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah, and that Chief Weber had no knowledge of any pertinent evidence to testify to. In documents obtained through open records requests it has been found that Chief Weber saw Jay Anderson’s body at the medical examiner’s office, something Expert Witness, William Harmoning questioned in the previous hearing date. During Judge Yamahiro’s decision he noted that there were significant things that Weber would need to answer including whether or not Mensah followed department policies and procedures, a position Weber stands firm on that he did despite evidence showing Mensah violated department policy numerous times. Weber will need to answer why there were 16 Wauwatosa Officers conducting investigations, writing reports, touching evidence and more importantly removing evidence from the scene even days after the critical incident. Judge Yamahiro raised concern about Weber’s conduct the day of the shooting and his actions afterwards.
Next was an issue with open records that were redacted. A Wauwatosa Lt. tried to fight the redaction claiming that the same documents were court ordered in another ongoing case and a judge had ordered specific information on these documents to be redacted. Yamahiro fired back that that case had no relevance in his John Doe Hearing and ordered the documents to be released unredacted.
Jay Anderson Jr. fiancé, Starkeisha Delarosa, testified that Milwaukee Police Department interviewed her for approximately 45 minutes and was at the house of Anderson’s parents for over an hour. This would be more time spent interrogating the family than was spent with Mensah to question details about the shooting incident. MPD would question the family about why Anderson had marijuana in his possession, who his drug dealers were, and why he was cheating on Delarosa which nothing supported their claims. The line of questioning they endured was nothing more than an attempt to justify the shooting death of Anderson and to criminalize him immediately. Delarosa testified that MPD Officers told her the “gun clip was found in the backseat of the car” Anderson was shot in, which Yamahiro noted was also in a report that came out during an open records request. This detail alone is hugely significant when it comes to Mensah and his numerous inconsistent statements. Without bullets, guns don’t pose a threat to anyone. If there was no threat, why was Anderson shot multiple times and killed?
The Anderson family and Delarosa were never followed up with by Milwaukee PD, Wauwatosa PD, Federal Law Enforcement, DOJ or the DA’s Office to gather information as to Anderson’s mental state, where-a-bouts, behaviors, employment or any other questions that arise during an investigation.
Next on the witness stand would be James Trainum, a former Washington D.C. Law Enforcement Detective and consultant on police investigations and confirmation bias. Confirmation Bias is based on investigations getting pigeon holed with a “rush to judgement”, “tunnel vision”, supporting one theory before exploring other theories in an investigation and “specifically selecting evidence to support one theory without looking at the totality of evidence to determine if the theory is correct”. “Confirmation Bias impacts all elements of the investigation” Trainum stated, which leads to “investigative pitfalls”. Trainum testified “that a good, thorough investigation should maintain an open mind, identify issues, develop questions, and seek information to test an officer’s theories, crime scene analysis, witness interviews and evaluation of statements, timeline before and after the incident and victimology”. “You can’t take anything at face value”, he noted, a comment that highlights MPD’s way of handling the investigation. “As new evidence comes in with the collection, evaluation, comparison, and analysis to question all of it and compare it to make sure it fits the investigation”. He stated “the best way to miss evidence is to not look for it”.
Trainum went on to explain victimology, describing it as the background of Anderson as well as Mensah. What contributed to the event? Training, thought process of both parties, personality traits, how did Mensah handle similar encounters, the good and the bad. None of this was done by Wauwatosa or Milwaukee PD.
Anderson was asleep in his car in Madison Park when he encountered Mensah. At some point Mensah was behind Anderson’s car either on foot or from his squad car because he called in Anderson’s License Plate. There was no front plate on Anderson’s car. If Mensah was behind the car, why did he position his squad car in front of Anderson’s vehicle? This is a question that has come up numerous times which was heavily described to outline Mensah not following Wauwatosa’s Vehicle Traffic Stop Policy.
We know that Mensah was on the scene for 5 minutes and 35 seconds prior to the shooting. This was captured on video from the Madison Park Elementary School CCTV footage. What exactly happened during that time is unclear as we only have Mensah’s version and so far he hasn’t been very credible with his account of what happened. There are several things to note about the school video that infers a serious accusation of corruption on the part of Wauwatosa PD. Mensah claims he noticed other vehicles in the park prior to his encounter with Anderson on two separate occasions. What’s interesting is that according to the video, Mensah wasn’t in the park to have seen one of the sets of vehicles, so how would he have known this detail unless he was either told or shown the video in order to coach his statement. After the shooting death of Anderson, Mensah was not put on Administrative Leave, he was placed at a desk. The convenience of this was the department desk he was placed at, was directly surrounded by the same officers who were investigating the incident.
In multiple reports from the Milwaukee Police Department they conveniently say the same thing or corroborate what the Wauwatosa Police Reports state supporting the idea that Milwaukee didn’t actually investigate very much and just adopted what Wauwatosa PD put in their reports. There was no follow up to verify if what was in the reports was an accurate depiction. MPD didn’t follow up with witnesses nor follow up with WPD who took the reports. The danger in not conducting an independent investigation of an image, crime scene or video is that MPD could be influenced and only focus on what was listed in the WPD report and miss critical evidence that could have been obtained had it been done independently from what WPD did.
It also came out in this hearing that Mensah’s interview about the shooting was conducted at the Wauwatosa Police Department and not in Milwaukee where it should have been conducted, but more importantly, it wasn’t recorded. Trainum took issue with this as it doesn’t allow area to question Mensah on what was stated during the interview, it doesn’t expose any inconsistencies in the interview, or accuracy of what actually happened that night. These types of interviews “should always be recorded” he stated.
More focus in this hearing was directed towards Mensah’s violation of department policies when it comes to traffic stops. In this hearing some very serious issues with Mensah’s actions that night directly led to the shooting of Anderson due to Mensah’s creating “officer induced jeopardy, needlessly putting himself in danger”, which should have been examined by the district attorney’s office in the charging decision of Mensah. According to Wauwatosa PD policy, during all traffic stops the red/blue lights on the squad car are required to be activated for a couple of reasons. One, it lets a subject know as well as citizens in the area that police are conducting an investigation stated Pamela Holmes, a former Milwaukee Sgt. Activating those lights also automatically turns on the squad camera. Mensah claims he activated his lights during another stop in Madison Park earlier that night, but for some reason he didn’t activate his lights during the Anderson encounter. Again, video captured from Madison park Elementary School doesn’t show this. That leaves serious room to question, why? Mensah claimed he tried activating the squad camera from the attachment on his body but it malfunctioned. When the squad camera was finally activated after the shooting of Anderson it went back 28 seconds prior to the shooting, which captured the shooting itself but also didn’t capture Mensah’s claim of trying to activate the camera. At no time did Mensah activate his audio mic which is also required during all traffic stops according to the WPD policy. Had Mensah activated this secondary device it would have backed up his claim that he had conversation with Anderson and would have given a clearer picture as to what was said during the encounter. To date according to documents handed over in an open records request, at no time did Mensah file a report for faulty equipment or malfunction and MPD did not follow up on the equipment failure.
Again during the stop, the positioning of Mensah’s squad in front of Anderson’s vehicle was brought into question and the use of the take down lights which we highlighted in the first article. Mensah “lost tactical advantage” in positioning his squad this way and also went against policy and his training, stated Trainum.
One thing I found to be very clever during the testimony of Trainum is the attorney Kimberly Motley kept calling out the real time, noting it for the record. The significance of this was to demonstrate the amount of time pertinent questions should have been asked and to show how much time was actually spent with Mensah during his interview, a mere 47 minutes. Less time than the time spent with the Anderson family criminalizing their son.
Some other key notes that weren’t previously made public is that Mensah also radioed for backup. If Mensah was in danger and fearing for his safety why did he not retreat back to his vehicle and wait for backup to arrive, especially if he wasn’t in a safe tactical position for a potential gunfight. Again due to the positioning of his vehicle he would now also put the “arriving officer’s lives in jeopardy” according to Pamela Holmes.
While Anderson was sleeping in his car, Mensah claims to have done a visual search of the interior of the vehicle but made no mention or claim of Anderson’s gun being visual on the passenger seat. In fact he doesn’t recall anything on the passenger seat. Later he would state that during conversation with Anderson, he noticed Anderson look down which then alerted Mensah to the gun. Leaves to question whether Mensah actually did a visual check of the inside of the car, and whether the gun was actually in the front seat, considering the magazine was said to have been found in the back seat. With reports citing the magazine was in the back seat, if Mensah didn’t see the gun at all, was there really a gun that Anderson allegedly lunged for within arm’s reach? Even still, Mensah could have moved to his left to take himself out of the “kill zone” which would have required Anderson to turn and shoot at Mensah if he in fact grabbed the gun. In turn this could have resulted in less shots being fired and Anderson could still be alive. Due to this, Trainum believes Mensah’s “use of force was excessive”.
Trainum, noted that it’s “important to look at policies to see if they were actually followed” because it would have shown that Mensah “repeatedly placed himself in danger and steps could have been taken to avoid the shooting altogether”.
With Mensah’s inconsistencies in his various statements, Trainum, suggested that “crime scene reconstruction” should have been done. The purpose of the reconstruction would “demonstrate what could Mensah see due to his take down lights being to the front of Anderson car, along with what could Anderson see with the lights in his eyes. Would Anderson even be able to tell that Mensah was a police officer since the red/blue lights were not on”? Trainum also went on to say that the reconstruction would help with “officer memory” since things happen so fast and there was an officer involved shooting. With the multitude of reports where officers can’t recall where evidence was found and lack of photographic evidence of placement of evidence, a reconstruction of the scene could have helped with that also. None of the officers took photographs of the gun on the passenger seat, the gun clip in the back seat or the direction the muzzle of the gun was facing on the seat which would directly impact the danger level of the situation. Mensah also claimed that when he saw the gun, he noticed an “extended magazine” sticking out of the handgun. This detail seems very confusing, again because the magazine was found in the back seat, not in the gun itself which was presumably on the passenger seat and in a photo introduced as evidence, the magazine was not an “extended magazine”.
Trainum, also noted that MPD did not request Mensah’s personnel file which ideally would have alerted them to the Antonio Gonzalez shooting and death, where Mensah disengaged with Gonzalez before having to shoot. The questions should have sparked a deeper look into Mensah’s actions with Anderson and policies of what was the difference between the shootings that Mensah, didn’t disengage with Anderson considering back up was on the way and there were several alternative steps that could have been taken to avoid the shooting and more importantly the death of Anderson.
There are also inconsistencies with Mensah’s statements regarding whether Anderson was asleep or not. In one statement Mensah claims he thought Anderson was fake sleeping, but then in another statement he reports to waking Anderson up after visually searching Anderson car and knocking on the window repeatedly.
In another video we released on the Never Stop Voices YouTube Channel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ae7g1FNiURc (time stamp 3:10am in the video) after the shooting it’s shown that Wauwatosa Officers removed the gun from the vehicle which was improper. What’s concerning is the fact the officers have their backs to the camera, the gun is never checked to see if it’s loaded let alone a magazine in the gun, and a lot of fumbling around with the gun before properly securing it and hands inside officers pockets. As we highlighted in the previous article and from this hearing the proper photographic evidence of the gun was not done. There are also inconsistencies with reports between WPD and MPD on gun placement, whether it was loaded or not, how many bullets. The amount of improper procedure when securing evidence that happened during this would make any judge’s head spin which Yamahiro seemed to catch as well.
Finally it was determined again from Trainum evaluating the records that surround the Anderson death that there was “no evidence to support Mensah’s claim that Anderson reached for or lunged for the gun”.
During Pamela Holmes testimony, a former Milwaukee PD Sgt. and current member of the Racial Disparities Task Force “if you’re not doing anything wrong you shouldn’t have a problem recording” when she was asked by Motley about Mensah not activating his squad camera or audio mic. She followed with, “as an officer, you have duty to uphold the law, and you have to follow the rules, policies and procedures set forth. If Mensah conducted himself this way, imagine how he handled himself in other cases”. When Motley asked Holmes why she didn’t think Mensah was charged in this case, Holmes responded, “How many times have you seen Wauwatosa Police Department in the news. He wasn’t charged to avoid a payout for wrong doing. Call it what it is – Bad Policing. Sometimes things go wrong, admit it and move on, don’t cover it up”.
Holmes also doesn’t believe Mensah feared for his safety, “there’s too many other things that could have been done, and he placed himself in that situation”.
Both Trainum and Holmes testified that they believe there is probable cause to support 2nd Degree Reckless Homicide and Homicide by Negligent Handling of a Dangerous Weapon.
Had this investigation not been contaminated by the Wauwatosa Police Department and had Milwaukee Police Department thorou
ghly investigated instead of taking WPD’s reports and copying them, would the charging decision have changed regarding Mensah’s employment? Even if he had just been fired for multiple policy violations at the time then Alvin Cole presumably would still be alive. Cole pictured below.
The next hearing date is scheduled for May 4th, 2021.
This is an ongoing story and we will continue to bring coverage. Live Stream coverage of day 2 of the hearing is available on the Never Stop Voices YouTube Channel.
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