The mother and sisters of a black teenager killed by a police officer in suburban Milwaukee, Wisconsin, were arrested this week during a protest against the decision not to charge the officer on Alvin Cole’s death.
Cole’s mother, Tracy Cole, was arrested on Thursday around 8:30 pm local time (00:30 GMT) “for peaceful protest”. Her lawyer, Kimberley Motley, tweeted and was rushed to hospital with injuries to her arm and forehead.
Cole’s sisters Tracy and Tristiana were also arrested, and Tristiana was hospitalized for reasons unknown.
“I’m Mrs. Cole, Alvin’s mother,” Tracy Cole can be heard shouting repeatedly as police officers pulled her out of her car, according to a Facebook livestream that captured part of her arrest. “I can’t believe you did this to me. You killed my son, ”she called to the officers.
“I can’t breathe,” she said several times. “I can not breath.”
The arrests come amid two consecutive nights of protest in the city of Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, after prosecutors decided not to charge officer Joseph Mensah with Cole’s death in February.
They arrested Tracy Cole for protesting peacefully tonight! She ended up in the hospital – more to come ????
– Kimberley Motley – Expressions of Opinion ???? (@KimMotleysLaw) October 9, 2020
The 17-year-old’s death sparked protests throughout the summer in Wauwatosa, a town of 48,000 west of Milwaukee.
The demonstrations took place against the backdrop of global protests in May against the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee to his neck for almost eight minutes.
Floyd was heard on a cell phone video saying “I can’t breathe,” which became a rally for protesters.
In Cole’s case, the Wauwatosa Police Commission is under increasing pressure to discipline Mensah after an independent investigator recommended that Mensah be dismissed for the deadly shooting.
The protesters have just taken the freeway here in Milwaukee. Not enough police to stop them #MilwaukeeProtests #AlvinCole #Wauwatosa #JosephMensah #Milwaukee pic.twitter.com/pU2a8SBjv4
– Brendan Gutenschwager (@BGOnTheScene) October 7, 2020
The commission’s next scheduled meeting is October 21, but Shawn Rolland, head of Milwaukee County, which covers parts of the city, has asked the panel to meet next week.
“Helicopters are circling overhead, the National Guard is stationed on our streets, a curfew prevents us from going outside in our own courtyards, shops are boarded up, broken glass on our streets, families march and mourn relatives, police officers are at risk and none of us know what’s coming tomorrow, ”Rolland said in a statement.
“If this commission can speed up its advisory work, our employees, businesses and neighborhoods can heal faster.”
The city was under a 7 p.m. curfew on Thursday after Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm announced a day earlier not to blame Mensah for the shooting death of Cole.
Investigators reported that Cole had a gun and fired it before he was fatally shot outside a local mall in February. Chisholm said the teen apparently shot himself in the arm, and officials alleged Cole refused her order to drop the gun.
Motley, the family’s attorney, has announced that she will file a federal lawsuit against Mensah.
Meanwhile, Police Commission attorney Christopher Smith said the panel would stick to a schedule it approved in August for the case.
The deadline for the submission of lists of witnesses by the parties in preparation for a hearing was October 28. This means that the Commission could not take a decision until November at the earliest.
“The (Commission) will – and not legally – deliberate on this matter until both parties have a chance to produce witnesses and other evidence,” Smith said in an email to The Associated Press.
“Any suggestions to the contrary are only intended to confuse the public and inflame the already tense situation in Wauwatosa.”
Multiple deadly shootings
Cole’s death marked the third fatal shooting Mensah was involved in in the past five years.
Mensah fatally shot Antonio Gonzales in 2015 after police said Gonzales refused to drop a sword, and a year later he fatally shot Jay Anderson Jr. while sitting in a parked car. In the latter case, Mensah said he believed Anderson Jr. was reaching for a gun in the passenger seat.
The officer was not charged in any shooting.
The Wauwatosa Police and Fire Department suspended Mensah in July, asking former US attorney Steven Biskupic to decide whether Mensah should be disciplined over Cole’s death.
Biskupic recommended that the commission quit Mensah and said the risk of a fourth shooting was too great. Biskupic also accused Mensah of speaking publicly about the shooting on radio programs and in front of local and national news outlets.
A man wearing a protective mask walks past a mural by George Floyd after his death in Minneapolis police custody in Chicago [File: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters]Hours after Biskupic published his report, Chisholm announced that he would not prosecute Mensah for saying Mensah could successfully argue that he acted in self-defense.
Wauwatosa Police Chief Barry Weber subsequently tweeted that his department “approves” of the prosecutor’s decision but “hears the message” from the public.
He said an internal review would continue and Mensah would continue to be suspended. The department has taken steps to improve policing, Weber added, including further training and posting its guidelines online. The officers would have to wear body cameras by January.