Wisconsin federal prosecutor warns against unrest after officer avoids charges in fatal shooting of Black teen
Federal authorities in Wisconsin on Wednesday warned of legal consequences for anyone engaging in unrest after prosecutors announced a police officer would not face charges in the shooting death of a Black teen earlier this year.
On Wednesday, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm declined to pursue charges against Wauwatosa Officer Joseph Mensah, who is also Black, for his involvement in the Feb. 2 death of Alvin Cole. It was the third fatal shooting involving Mensah, authorities said.
In a 14-page letter, Chisholm said evidence indicated the 17-year-old Cole fled from police with a stolen 9-mm firearm, fired a shot and ignored orders to drop the gun. Mensah was responding to a mall after receiving reports about a suspect with a gun.
Cole was the third person fatally shot by Mensah. The death has sparked protests and demonstrations amid similar gatherings nationwide. On Wednesday, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, activated the National Guard as a precaution.
In a statement, U.S. Attorney Matthew Krueger said federal law enforcement personnel have partnered with state and local authorities to address any potential violence.
“Federal law enforcement in Wisconsin is sworn to protect First Amendment rights, which include the rights to speak and assemble ‘peacefully,'” he said. “In the past year, however, in addition to witnessing peaceful protests, some Wisconsin communities have suffered episodes of violent civil unrest.
“Federal law imposes serious penalties for arson, rioting, firearms offenses, and other violent crimes, which we will prosecute to the fullest extent possible,” the statement continued. “No one else in Wisconsin should become a victim of needless violence or face destruction of a business as a result of unrest.”
On Wednesday, demonstrators gathered in Wauwatosa — a Milwaukee suburb — to voice opposition to Chisholm’s decision.
Videos and images posted to social media showed crowds marching on streets and gathering in neighborhoods.
At one point, authorities in Wauwatosa used pepper balls and tear gas against the crowd, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
There were reports of rioters smashing windows and targeting homes.
An independent reporter tweeted that protesters were throwing rocks at homes in the area and breaking windows while some in the crowd shouted, “That’s somebody’s home!”
The rioters also appeared to loot a nearby gas station mart.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.