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Mother, sisters of slain Black teen arrested at protest outside Milwaukee

Tracy Cole, mother of slain Black teenager Alvin Cole, speaks outside the Milwaukee County courthouse Wednesday
Tracy Cole, mother of slain Black teenager Alvin Cole, speaks outside the Milwaukee County courthouse Wednesday.
(Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

The mother and sisters of a Black teen who was killed by a suburban Milwaukee police officer were arrested Thursday by officers who were cracking down on protesters out after a curfew following a decision not to charge the officer.

Alvin Cole’s mother, Tracy Cole, was arrested “for peacefully protesting” and “ended up in the hospital” on Thursday night, her attorney Kimberley Motley tweeted on Friday. Her daughters Taleavia and Tristiana Cole were arrested as well, said Motley, who also represents the siblings. They were taken into custody along with several others at about 8:30 p.m. in a church parking lot in Wauwatosa, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

Motley said Cole, 48, was taken to Froedtert Hospital with an injury to her arm and forehead. Daughter Tristiana Cole was taken there as well.

Motley later tweeted that both were released from the hospital. Details on why Tristiana Cole was taken to the hospital weren’t immediately known. Wauwatosa police spokeswoman Abby Pavlik didn’t return messages left by the Associated Press on Friday. Police tweeted Thursday night that “several” people were arrested, and said one woman requested medical attention and was taken to a hospital.

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Protesters gathered in Wauwatosa for two straight nights to demonstrate against prosecutors’ decision not to charge officer Joseph Mensah in Alvin Cole’s death. Pressure mounted Friday on the city’s police commission to decide whether to discipline Mensah. An independent investigator has recommended that he be fired.

The commission’s next scheduled meeting is Oct. 21, but Milwaukee County Supervisor Shawn Rolland, who represents parts of Wauwatosa, called for the panel to meet next week.

“Helicopters are circling above us, the National Guard is deployed on our streets, a curfew is preventing us from walking outside in our own yards, businesses are boarded up, there’s broken glass on our streets, families are marching and mourning the loss of their loved ones, police officers are at risk and none of us know what tomorrow will bring,” Rolland said in a statement. “If this commission can accelerate its deliberative work, our people, businesses and neighborhoods can begin to heal faster.”

The commission’s attorney, Christopher Smith, said the panel will abide by a schedule it adopted in August to handle the Mensah case. The next date on the schedule is Oct. 28, the deadline for parties to submit witness lists in preparation for a hearing, he said. That means the earliest the commission could issue a decision would likely be in November.

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“The (commission) will not — and legally cannot — deliberate on this matter until such time that both parties have an opportunity to present witnesses and other evidence,” Smith said in an email to the Associated Press. “Any suggestions to the contrary only serves to confuse the public and further inflame what is already a tense situation in Wauwatosa.”

A Facebook livestream that captured only audio of Tracy Cole was made by a third daughter. She could be heard screaming in pain as she was being arrested, saying police injured her arm, hit her in the head and used a stun gun on her.

“I’m Mrs. Cole, Alvin’s mother,” Tracy Cole screamed repeatedly as officers pulled her out of her car.

“I can’t believe y’all did this to me. Y’all killed my son,” she yelled at the officers.

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“I can’t breathe,” she said multiple times. “I can’t breathe.”

Tracy Cole also said her head was bleeding and she believed her arm was broken. Cole could be heard telling someone that an officer had hit her in the head and pulled her hair.

“Well, that’s too bad,” the person responded.

Residents clean up in a Milwaukee suburb where protests turned violent after a Black police officer was cleared in fatal shooting of Black teen.

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The city was under a 7 p.m. curfew during a second night of protests after Milwaukee County Dist. Atty. John Chisholm decided not to charge Mensah, who is also Black, with the shooting death ofAlvin Cole, 17, in February outside Mayfair Mall.

According to investigators’ reports, Cole had a gun and fired it. Chisholm said it appeared he shot himself in the arm. Officers said Cole refused commands to drop the weapon.

Motley has said she plans to file a federal lawsuit against Mensah.

Alvin Cole’s death was the third fatal shooting by Mensah in the last five years. The officer shot and killed Antonio Gonzales in 2015 after police said Gonzales refused to drop a sword. A year later, Mensah fatally shot Jay Anderson Jr. in a car parked in a park after hours. Mensah said he saw a gun on the passenger seat and thought Anderson was reaching for it.

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Mensah wasn’t charged in either shooting.

Cole’s death sparked protests all summer in Wauwatosa, a city of 48,000 just west of Milwaukee. The demonstrations played out against a backdrop of protests nationwide over the death in May of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee on his neck for nearly eight minutes. Floyd could be heard on cellphone video saying, “I can’t breathe,” which became a rallying cry for protesters.

The Wauwatosa Police and Fire Commission suspended Mensah in July and asked former U.S. Atty. Steven Biskupic to determine whether Mensah should be disciplined. Biskupic recommended that the commission terminate Mensah, calling the risk of a fourth shooting too great. Biskupic also faulted Mensah for speaking publicly about the shooting.

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Hours after Biskupic released his report, Chisholm announced that he wouldn’t charge Mensah. The prosecutor said Mensah would be able to argue successfully that he acted in self-defense.

Wauwatosa Police Chief Barry Weber subsequently tweeted that his department “concurs” with the prosecutor’s decision but “hears the message” from the public. He said an internal review is ongoing and that Mensah remains suspended. The department has taken steps to improve policing, including more training, posting policies online and requiring body cameras by January, he said.


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