Three of a Seven Chapter Series
Police reports describe a scene much more violent and chaotic than initially reported.
In newly released Wauwatosa police reports, then Wauwatosa Officer Joseph Mensah and his Milwaukee police officer girlfriend, Patricia Swayka, described the extremely violent People’s Revolution mob attack in which Mensah was called a racial slur, both officers were repeatedly punched by multiple attackers, Swayka was scratched, a bullhorn was cracked over Mensah’s head, and they thought they would be killed when a bullet careened a few inches away.
In December, despite the brutal assault against the two officers, 14 Milwaukee County supervisors passed a resolution “commending” the Peoples Revolution protest/riot group. They say the organization has made the community “safer.” Supervisor Ryan Clancy even apologized to the group.
But the police reports, obtained by Wisconsin Right Now through an open records request, indicate that People’s Revolution members had more than one firearm at the scene and describe multiple attackers who physically beat the officers. Swayka told police that “a black male subject wearing black shorts removed a handgun from the front of his waistband and began waving it around.” The subject with the handgun was yelling that he should or would kill Mensah, she told police. The reports don’t identify that man. That’s a different man from the People’s Revolution member accused of discharging another firearm near the officers.
She heard someone say “we will shoot the dog” and “I’ll kill you n-gga.” Mensah is black. A neighbor saw Mensah being attacked by six to eight protesters who were hitting him repeatedly, the police reports say.
Mensah tried talking to the people swarming the yard, but they began attacking him, Swayka told police. The small group became a group of 15-20 people. “The majority of the people were hitting Mensah,” the police reports say
An elected state representative, David Bowen, and the Milwaukee office director for U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, Tiffany Henry, were at the scene as the assaults unfolded, the police reports allege (Bowen, Baldwin, and Henry did not return requests for comment.) You can read what People’s Revolution members told police about Bowen here. Bowen refused to talk to police, and the accused shooter, Ronald Bell, told police Bowen encouraged him not to turn himself in. Bell eventually did do so, and he was charged with a felony.
Wauwatosa Police Chief Barry Weber asked the state Assembly to discipline Bowen in a September letter to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, saying Bowen lied to the public and participated in the incident. He didn’t hear back.
Bell periodically smiled during a brief court appearance to set a trial date on January 22. A jury trial was set for June 1. Bell was released on $1,000 cash bail and is out of custody being supervised by JusticePoint. His performance has not been perfect; “Missed Scheduled Alternate Contact,” court records say at one point. He was ordered to abide by a “limited curfew” of 09:30 p.m. to 06:00 a.m.
Previous news accounts have somewhat sanitized the extremely violent nature of the August attack by members of the protest/riot group against the two officers in the front yard of Swakya’s home. Police reports allege that the sister of Alvin Cole was also at the scene; Cole is the armed teen Mensah shot and killed outside Mayfair Mall in a shooting ruled justified by the District Attorney. Although it’s well-known that Bell was charged with a felony for discharging a gun near the officers, the physical assaults have not been previously described in this level of detail.
Police reports describe the chaos. Vehicles were “driving at a high rate of speed through the neighborhood and all over the roads.” The “’protesters’ were yelling and screaming from the vehicles and beeping their horns continuously causing a loud disturbance.” They cursed things like “Fck 12” and “Fck the police.” A neighbor said he heard a gunshot and the group chanting phrases such as “murderer” and “fck ‘em, fck ‘em all.”
According to the police interview with Swayka, she told police a black male, holding a megaphone, struck Mensah in the head with the megaphone so hard that it broke the megaphone, the police reports say, although they contain conflicting information from People’s Revolution members about which person was wielding that megaphone.
The megaphone assault “emboldened the crowd and led to others attacking Mensah,” the police reports say of Swayka’s interview. Swayka was scratched and hit during the chaos. She observed two black male subjects following them. One was armed with a shotgun and one with a handgun. They chased Mensah and Swayka to the house. As she reached to open the rear door, she heard a loud boom. That’s when authorities believe Bell fired his weapon – but missed, the reports allege.
Mensah was the focus of the People’s Revolution’s rage because of three justified fatal on-duty shootings; he later resigned in a settlement with the city. Swayka works for a neighboring police department.
In the reports, Swayka was described as “agitated and trembling.” Dispatchers told Swayka that protesters “were coming to the house with lots of toilet paper.”
We obtained, also via an open records request, this screenshot of people allegedly in the Target when the toilet paper was purchased. The reports allege that Bowen and Henry were in Henry’s car in the parking lot at the time.
Here is a video of the Peoples Revolution leaving the Target Store just prior to the attack on the officers.
Here’s what else the reports say, based on the Swayka interview:
Mensah learned the police weren’t going to block the streets off so he parked a U-Haul rental across the roadway. Mensah backed the truck into an alleyway.
The protesters arrived and began toilet papering the house. Swayka heard glass breaking on the north side of the home. Mensah told her to stay inside and give him their Great Dane, thinking it would scare the people into leaving.
The dog became frightened and slid out of his lead so Swayka came outside to help Mensah get the dog back inside.
She thought people were spray painting the U-Haul truck. That’s when she told police she “observed a skinny black male squatting down and deflating the front passenger tire of the U Haul.”
She yelled at him to leave the truck alone and used her hand to push him away from the tire. She stated within seconds several people surrounded her and “a black male subject wearing black shorts removed a handgun from the front of his waistband and began waving it around,” the reports say
The subject with the handgun was yelling that he should or would kill Mensah, she said.
They went in the house screaming after Bell allegedly discharged the shotgun.
Swayka feared they would be killed. She told police many of the people “were not peaceful protesters. They were angry and intent on causing chaos and damage.”
Mensah gave a similar account. He described how six of the males started throwing punches at him. He was struck in the face and head repeatedly. He did not strike back, he told police. During the shooting, he heard the “sound of a gunshot right behind him.” He saw a hole in the doorway. He thought a handgun was also fired. He truly feared for his life and for Swayka’s. He believes the shotgun blast was inches from him.
The reports also give more details of the incident from People’s Revolution members who spoke with police – Bell and Niles McKee.
McKee said he heard David Bowen discuss the bullhorn at Washington Park.
Bowen told the group, something to the effect of, “it was good that we got at him and now Alvin Cole’s mom has a souvenir,” referring to the bullhorn, McKee said.
Disclosure: WRN contributor Jessica McBride is the niece of Dennis McBride. Jim Piwowarcyzk, the owner of WRN, is the author of this story.