Wauwatosa, WI(Pontiac) –This passing summer, the family of Jay Anderson Jr. gathered and released balloons in a local park. That anniversary wasn’t a cheerful one, commemorating the day Anderson was killed in his car by a Wauwatosa (Tosa) police officer. With the family mourning still, and the officer back out patrolling with no consequences, numerous questions continue to linger over the case. Some were sent to a former police officer by Pontiac Tribune, and possibly answered.
Jay Anderson Jr. was killed in 2016 amidst nationwide protests and unrest over police misconduct. Even in Milwaukee, riots and militarization created a state of unease for days before calming. Because of this, many people confuse Anderson’s shooting with Syville Smith’s, which triggered the riots. That’s how little his case was discussed. The Jay Anderson shooting was subsequently investigated by Milwaukee PD due to Wisconsin laws mandating outside agencies investigate police shootings. Since this incident, and after several shootings by Milwaukee PD, the Wauwatosa Police Department now leads an investigative team handling all shootings in the county that aren’t its own.
An interview from the 2016 press conference wherein Anderson’s parents react to the officer being cleared of the shooting. Depicted here is Jay’s mother, Linda Anderson
At 3:00 AM on June 2016, Anderson was approached by a single Tosa officer while sleeping his car in a public park. To this day, his family asserts he’d been drinking and pulled over rather than drive home. They say he found the area calming, and went there often to relax. WPD officers interviewed by Milwaukee police investigators assigned to the case also claimed the park is popular for all sorts of activities, even at night.
In an interview with Milwaukee Police detectives, Officer Joseph Mensah described shining lights on the car before approaching. Although Mensah radioed in, he did not wait for backup. He then allegedly walked to each window–starting with the front passenger seat– and examined the car’s interior with a flashlight. Anderson woke up slightly, but then passed back out when Mensah tried to wake him upon reaching the driver window. According to documents, at no point had Mensah yet seen any weapon in Anderson’s car.
Officer Mensah then woke Anderson again, and began a dialogue with him. None of their interaction, or Mensah’s initial approach, were recorded by body cam. In fact, Mensah claimed his body cam wouldn’t work, and his dash cam only caught a 20 second clip of the shooting itself. All and all, the family’s lawyer felt around 8 minutes of footage was missing.
While talking, Mensah claimed he noticed Anderson’s eyes darting towards the passenger seat. According to him, a pistol sat on the seat and Mensah ordered Anderson’s hands up. It’s unknown how long the inebriated 25 year old father and fiance was forced to maintain this position. Officer Mensah also never ordered Anderson out of the car or attempted to remove him.
In the 20 second clip, Anderson’s hands lowered several times, going “too low” when he fired. Mensah’s glock struck Jay Anderson in the head multiple times before ceasing. Wauwatosa officers arrived several minutes later, pulling Anderson’s body out of his car. Before medics arrived, the officers removed the gun and threw it in the trunk of a cruiser.
No pictures of the gun in the passenger seat were taken, and Mensah’s memory was “hazy”, Milwaukee PD investigators noted. Pictures of the weapon, in fact, weren’t captured until they’d returned to the station. Video captured by WPD back up showing how the scene was handled was never released. Instead, a pixilated copy of the original 20 second dash clip was released five months later. Even Milwaukee police investigators noted the video was of poor quality and although clearer copies exist, these weren’t released. Though officers say Anderson was lunging for a gun viewers can’t see, his family asserts he was blacking out.
Tosa PD attempted to keep the shooting officer’s name secret throughout the months of quiet investigations. Although family protests and independent media outlets like Cop Block made Mensah’s identity public, WPD kept it secret until November 2016. No press conference was held until the officer was cleared five months after killing Anderson. “It’s been a cover up since day one”, yelled Anderson’s fiance Star Delarosa when Mensah was cleared. Despite numerous residents reaching out to WPD for answers, the department remained silent.
Once Mensah was identified, it was discovered he’d worked three departments in a five year career. He’d only been at Wauwatosa PD since 2015, and was also involved in another shooting. As such, many became concerned that Mensah had killed twice in less than a year. It’s unclear if the young officer was afforded any psychological help or evaluation after these incidents.
To get a professional analysis of this little discussed shooting, I contacted a former police officer. Randy Shrewsberry boasts over 20 years of law enforcement experience in both the public and private sectors. He specialized as a certified fire and explosion investigator with 7 police agencies at the local and federal level. Shrewsberry examined the nearly 200 page Milwaukee PD Anderson investigation file, and offered his insights.
“The major concern for me”, he explained, “was that it was Mensah’s second shooting–especially in such a short period of time. Second, the limits of the video seem odd.”
On page 35, the summary of an interview with Officer Mensah by investigators on the events of the shooting. After reading the account, Shrewsberry noted “this contradicts itself repeatedly.” Mensah claimed when he walked up to Anderson, “he was breathing fast as if nervous or scared”.
In the pitch dark park, Mensah recalled vivid detail of how Anderson scanned his uniform when he finally woke up. He recounted detailed descriptions of Anderson’s actions while fading in and out of consciousness. The two also spoke before Mensah felt threatened.
“Amazing detail” former officer Shrewsberry noted, “but didn’t see a gun.” If you’re wondering what he meant, consider this. When Officer Mensah first arrived, he used his cruisers “take down lights” to shine the entire vehicle. These still on, he approached and shined a flashlight through every window starting with the front passenger window. At no point during this did Mensah state he saw a weapon. A pistol which he later said was in the passenger seat he started at.
Before shooting, Mensah states he announced he could see a gun. Jay Anderson, however, reputedly said “there’s nothing there” and “it’s nothing.” No audio was captured by Mensah’s equipment in an encounter mostly unrecorded. No other officers or witnesses were on the scene until Anderson was already shot. The pistol later recovered from the car belonged to a friend of Anderson’s.
Randy Shrewsberry questions how Mensah was able to recall details so vividly, while blanking on others. Page 36 of the investigative file notes Mensah was “unable to recall” Anderson’s clothing. Despite this, he was able to recall eye movement and breathing patterns in a pitch black nighttime park. After he noticed the gun Mensah told investigators “he was hazy” with what happened next.
As a police officer, Shrewsberry wonders why Mensah left Anderson in the car. He also questions how Mensah could see eye movement in the pitch dark when investigators noted he was 20ft from Anderson’s vehicle. Shrewsberry called the removal of the gun from the car “bad practice”, though not necessarily illegal. This was also noted by MPD investigators to the family on the day Mensah was cleared.
Officers who searched Anderson’s body as medics arrived claimed to have found 2.43 grams of cannabis in his right front pocket. However, later on the document states another 9.98 grams were located by Tosa Officer Salyers, who also found Jay’s I. D. It’s important to note that Mensah claimed Jay said he didn’t have I.D., and Salyers couldn’t recall where he got the card from. The question also remains why it seems officer didn’t notice this second, larger amount until later. Other officers similarly blanked on critical details of the scene including the position of the gun, where the ID came from, and which pockets drugs were recovered from.
These are just a few of the finer details which made the Anderson case an odd ball shooting. From the way the cases transparency was handled, to the murky specifics of what happened during June 23d’s wee morning hours. Upon reviewing the many twists and turns in the investigative files themselves, former officer Randy Shrewsberry agreed: there were many more questions than answers surrounding the quiet killing of Jay Anderson Jr.