No charges for Wisconsin officer in killing of Black teen

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Taleavia Cole

This undated family photo provided by Taleavia Cole shows her brother Alvin Cole, left. Wauwatosa, Wis., Police Officer Joseph Mensah shot and killed the 17-year-old outside a mall in February, 2020 after receiving a call of a man with a gun in the mall. 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. (Taleavia Cole via AP)

MADISON, Wis. – A Black Wisconsin police officer who fatally shot a Black teenager outside a suburban Milwaukee mall in February won't be charged because he had reasonable belief that deadly force was necessary, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

Wauwatosa Officer Joseph Mensah shot 17-year-old Alvin Cole outside Mayfair Mall on Feb. 2 after police responded to a reported disturbance at the shopping center.

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, in a 14-page letter laying out his rationale, said evidence showed Cole fled from police carrying a stolen 9 mm handgun. He cited squad car audio evidence, along with testimony from Mensah and two fellow officers, that he said showed Cole had fired a shot while fleeing and refused commands to drop the gun.

“He did not surrender the weapon and was fired upon by Officer Mensah causing his death,” Chisholm wrote. He concluded: “(T)here is sufficient evidence that Officer Mensah had an actual subjective belief that deadly force was necessary and that belief was objectively reasonable.”

Cole was the third person Mensah has fatally shot since becoming an officer, and his death has sparked periodic protests in Wauwatosa and the Milwaukee area. Gov. Tony Evers announced earlier Wednesday that he had activated National Guard members as a precaution, though he didn't say how many or how they were being used. Guard spokesman Maj. Joe Trovato later said “hundreds” of troops were at the ready.

The city of Wauwatosa issued a nightly 7 p.m. curfew after Chisholm's decision was announced, to run until next Monday. Many people ignored the curfew, marching peacefully in the city.

Late Wednesday evening and well past the curfew, a group of a few hundred protesters confronted a police line. Police said some in the group were throwing rocks at law enforcement and buildings and that they used tear gas to disperse the protesters. Footage posted on social media showed the gas and the crowd retreating.

WISN-TV reported windows broken at several businesses on the city's north side, including a pharmacy, coffee shop, wall coverings store, cleaners and fitness center.