The United States has many stories of police violence. But some of them have taken a little longer to rise to the surface.
Alvin Cole, a Black teenager, was shot and killed in February, a month after his 17th birthday. The officer accused of killing him is Joseph Mensah with Wisconsin’s Wauwatosa Police Department – and Mensah is accused of shooting and killing two other men of colour – Jay Anderson four years ago, and and Antonio Gonzalez five years go.
These shootings have not seen as much attention as other incidents of police violence in the country perhaps because the racial element associated with police killing of black and minorities is not present here; Officer Joseph Mensah is black and possibly with Ghanaian roots. .
In all three killings, a total of 18 shots were fired by Officer Mensah – five each for Cole and Anderson, and eight for Gonzalez. what is shocking about these kilings is that Officer Mensah was apparently given awards for them, according to a documentary by Malika Bilal on The Take.
When white officers kill black people under questionable circumstances, such as the George Floyd killing and many others, it is easy to file it under racially motivated killing. But what happens when the police officer if also black, and has killed multiple minorities under similar questionable circumstances?
One expert, Mathew Brenen believes “it is a manifestation of unchecked self-hate that places the perpetrator in a position of wanting to please his mostly white superiors, or to be allowed into an exclusive club. Self hate can begin harmlessly, and certain people grow out of it when confronted with evidence contrary to their beliefs. But others double down because they refuse to acknowledge being wrong,” he said.
After several weeks of protests, Police Chief Barry Weber finally contacted Tracy Cole to offer his condolences. He also finally placed Officer Mensah on Administrative leave.
Kimberly Motley, The Cole family attorney said Alvin was shot five times – “two of those shots were to his back,” and Alvin was shot three times while he was “face down on the ground.” Many of these circumstances suggest an officer ensuring that the victim would not live to give his account of the encounter.
Kimberly believes the way Officer Joseph Menah behaves is similar to how US soldiers behave in Afghanistan where they look at people “more as targets.” An Kimberly believes the Police chief Barry Weber has allowed this behavior to fester within the Wauwatosa Police Department. She said “the fact that this man (police Chief Barry Weber) is giving this man awards for killing people speaks volumes.”
Wauwatosa, Wisconsin has a 2018 population of 48,376 and with a police department of 92 “sworn Officers. The standars by which these officers are trained are as contradictory as they are shocking.
To a question on their webpage “Why don’t police officers just shoot someone in the leg or arm rather than other parts of the body,” the Wauwatosa Police department’s response was “Wauwatosa Police Officers, like officers across the State of Wisconsin, are taught by the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Standards Board (LESB) to target the central nervous system of the threat’s body. These areas include the upper chest and head. The purpose behind this target zone is that a handgun, rifle, or shotgun round delivered to this area stands the best chance of stopping the threat, removing the need for further force.”
The response goes on to state ironically that “it is never the intent of the officer to kill the person, and all reasonable efforts are made to prevent their death.”
Mensah’s brother, Christopher Mensah, wrote on a GoFundMe page that the money will be used “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.”