WAUWATOSA -- The Wauwatosa police officer who shot and killed Jay Anderson will not face federal civil rights criminal charges. The decision upset Anderson's family, while at the same time, it reinforced the Wauwatosa Police Department's claim that the officer followed procedure.
A news release issued by the attorneys for the Anderson children Monday, February 27th said: "The Anderson family is extremely upset and disappointed with this most recent decision."
Jay Anderson was shot and killed by Officer Joseph Mensah on June 23rd, 2016 in Wauwatosa’s Madison Park. Officer Mensah opened fire after approaching Anderson, who was believed to be asleep. Police say Anderson had a gun. Family members believe he did nothing wrong.
"The family is certainly very upset. There's still great disappointment on their part. Mr. Anderson wasn't bothering anyone. He was in a parked vehicle. He was asleep before this. No one was complaining. Whatever happened was just tragic for everybody," Jonathan Safran, attorney for the Anderson family said.
There were no witnesses to this shooting, other than Officer Mensah and a 28-second video clip from Officer Mensah’s dash camera. The video shows Officer Mensah confronting Anderson in his vehicle after the park closed. A loaded handgun was alleged on the passenger seat inside the vehicle. Police said the video shows Anderson reaching for the weapon. Mensah shot him six times.
"I think it's a mistake. It's unusual in this case that the officer was involved in a prior police shooting death 11 months prior. That's a very unusual thing," Safran said.
U.S. Attorney Gregory Haanstad sent the Anderson family attorney a letter detailing why the decision not to prosecute has been made. That letter says the following:
"Our review of the case indicates that there is no reasonable basis for a criminal prosecution here."
Haanstad says "Officer Mensah's explanation for the shooting was that he acted reasonably to protect himself from deadly force because there was a loaded hand gun on the front passenger seat of Mr. Anderson's car and Mr. Anderson kept reaching for it despite the officers' commands not to do so. No evidence contradicts Mensah factually."
The letter also says a number of pieces of evidence corroborate Mensah's version. It reads, "When other police arrived, they found a loaded hand gun on the front passenger seat, just as Mensah stated. Mr. Anderson's DNA was later found on that gun."
The letter adds, "The video recording of the incident from Officer Mensah's squad car indicates that Mr. Anderson did repeatedly move his arm toward the gun as Mensah confronted him. Ultimately, Anderson did lean his whole body down toward this gun just before Mensah started firing."
Lastly, the letter says "Mensah only fired for a few seconds while stepping backward and stopped firing when he perceived that the threat had been neutralized. This cuts against any inference that he somehow intentionally set out to kill Mr. Anderson."
Wauwatosa police have maintained Mensah followed procedure. Safran said Mensah has returned to field duty.
"I am concerned as to whether or not that officer should have been back on the force in a one-man squad having to confront an individual where he had to make a decision to shoot," Safran said.
The news release from the Anderson family attorney added the following:
"The Anderson family has seen no accountability to-date for Jay's death. It appears that the only way for the full facts to be analyzed and the accountability to be provided will be by way of a federal civil rights lawsuit to be filed by Jay Anderson's children in federal court."
The Anderson family attorneys say they are awaiting final documents prepared by two law enforcement agencies to allow them to finish their review of the case. They say they will then discuss with the family the process of pursuing a civil rights lawsuit.
Meanwhile, Safran said there are things that still just don't make sense.
"For reasons that aren`t clear to me, the police department didn't photograph (the gun) before they removed it from the front seat. I don't know where it was. There was no diagram provided," Safran said.
Safran said the family has up to six years from the time of Anderson's death to file a civil suit.
FOX6 News reached out to Wauwatosa police for comment on this story multiple times on Monday. We did not hear back.
Monitor FOX6 News and FOX6Now.com for updates on this developing story.