Protesters in Wisconsin wreaked havoc on suburban neighborhoods late Wednesday evening, smashing the windows of several homes, during the civil unrest that unfolded after prosecutors announced they would not charge a Black Wauwatosa police officer for fatally shooting a Black teenager outside a shopping mall in February.
Wauwatosa Police said they used pepper balls and deployed tear gas against after crowds failed to disperse in the suburb outside Milwaukee. Some in the crowd also tossed eggs and water bottles, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
Officers declared the gathering was an unlawful assembly multiple times. The department retweeted a video from Town Hall reporter Julio Rosas showing demonstrators smashing storefronts along Swan Boulevard and W. North Avenue.
Videos showed protesters throwing rocks at residents' homes. Some in the crowd tried to tell the more violent to stop targeting residents, and someone is heard shouting: “Hey, that’s somebody’s home!”
Footage of the unlawful assembly. https://t.co/ztY963euoa
— Wauwatosa Police (WI) (@WauwatosaPD) October 8, 2020
Besides homes windows being smashed there were also reports of local businesses having their windows bashed and merchandise looted.
Some rioters in Wauwatosa, WI are now smashing windows of homes. People in the crowd tried to stop them from targeting homes. pic.twitter.com/vIiDQDPzTr
— Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) October 8, 2020
Police said they would support the National Guard and Mutual Aid to establish a protective boarder around Wauwatosa City Hall.
“What started as a protest has become a large disturbance of public order that has caused property damage, and is threatening to cause injury to persons. The Wauwatosa Police has ordered dispersal, and has not obtained compliance,” Wauwatosa Police tweeted. “While not all members of the group intend harm, everyone must disperse immediately. Police are working to disperse this group.”
Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm decided to not pursue charges against Wauwatosa Officer Joseph Mensah, who is also Black, for his involvement in the Feb. 2nd death of Alvin Cole a young black teen who was armed. It was the third fatal shooting involving Mensah, authorities said.
In a 14-page letter, Chisholm said evidence indicated Cole, 17, fled from police with a stolen 9-mm firearm, fired a shot, and ignored orders to drop his firearm. Mensah was responding to a mall after receiving reports about a suspect with a gun. The prosecutor said that Mensah had "a reasonable belief that deadly force was necessary," NY Post reported.
“He did not surrender the weapon and was fired upon by Officer Mensah causing his death,” Chisholm wrote. He concluded: “There is sufficient evidence that Officer Mensah had an actual subjective belief that deadly force was necessary and that belief was objectively reasonable.”
Chisholm’s report also noted that Cole’s gun had a bullet in the chamber which had been fired — the one that investigators believe he shot while running, possibly striking himself in the arm. They further added an empty magazine was recovered in his sling bag, meaning the gun had no more bullets in it when he was shot. Mensah and two other officers at the scene said Cole had pointed a gun at them.
Chisholm also expressed that it was worrisome that this was Mensah's third shooting and although Mensah had been cleared in all three of his shootings, Chisholm was concerned about his involvement in so many.
“This creates an incredible dilemma for the city of Wauwatosa and the Wauwatosa Police Department and the community,” he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I’ve never been cavalier about that.”… What is unique about this case is that it just creates such a liability for (shooting) number four. Everybody recognizes that.”
Mensah was not charged in the 2016 death of Jay Anderson Jr. or the 2015 death of Antonio Gonzales. Police have said Mensah shot Gonzales eight times after he refused to drop a sword. In Anderson’s case, Mensah approached a parked car where Anderson was sleeping and said he saw a gun and thought Anderson was reaching for it, so he shot him six times.
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."
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that clean up has begun after the riots trashed the city.