Four of a Seven Chapter Series
“I think Rep. Bowen’s actions were abhorrent, and we will be discussing options for the Assembly to address his actions,” – Assembly Speaker Robin Vos
The top two leaders in the Wisconsin State Assembly say they will discuss Wauwatosa Police Chief Barry Weber’s request that they seek discipline against state Rep. David Bowen in an upcoming caucus meeting of all Assembly Republicans.
“I think Rep. Bowen’s actions were abhorrent, and we will be discussing options for the Assembly to address his actions,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told Wisconsin Right Now on Jan. 23 in an exclusive interview.
In addition, state Rep. Jim Steineke, the Assembly’s Majority Leader, also promised a constituent that Assembly Republicans in that body will finally discuss Weber’s September request that the Legislature discipline – and consider expelling – Bowen (D-Milwaukee) for his alleged role relating to the vicious People’s Revolution mob attack against two police officers at their home, which left both with physical injuries.
The attack occurred in August; what’s new, though: Weber’s letter came to light, and WRN received voluminous police reports via an open records request that shed more light on Bowen’s role that day.
The police reports, for example, allege that a video shows Mensah was “being battered with Wisconsin State Representative also in close proximity.” David Bowen was the only state representative at the scene that day.
WRN also requested comment from every Assembly member regarding Weber’s request. None wrote back.
Bowen has not been arrested or charged in connection with the mob attack against then Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah and Milwaukee Police Officer Patricia Swayka at Swayka’s home in August. Three People’s Revolution members were criminally charged, one with discharging a firearm near the officers, who were left with injuries after being beaten by multiple people. Their home was also vandalized. The People’s Revolution was furious at Mensah over his three on-duty fatal shootings. However, District Attorney John Chisholm ruled all three were legally justified acts of self defense.
Here are the new accusations against Bowen:
- That, according to Weber, “Mr. Bowen lied in his publicly issued statement.” As we have reported, two People’s Revolution members, including accused shooter Ronald Bell, told police that Bowen lied to the public about what happened in the mob attack. In addition, public statements that Bowen gave – essentially trying to pin the blame on the officer – are repudiated by the criminal complaint against the accused shooter. Even two People’s Revolution members later told police that Officer Mensah was the victim in the attack, along with his girlfriend.
- Bowen refused to talk to the police about the felony crimes they were investigating even though he was an eyewitness to the situation.
- The accused shooter, Bell, told police that Bowen allegedly encouraged him not to turn himself in to police.
- Bowen was allegedly in the parking lot of Target when People’s Revolution members were at the store to buy toilet paper before the mob attack; toilet paper was strewn on Swayka’s lawn during the assault. Protester Corey Kirkwood told police that he observed David Bowen approach TPR member Percy Hayes and “ask where the group was going with the toilet paper” before they left Target. “Hayes and Bowen moved away from the others so Kirkwood did not hear anymore of the conversation. As the group drove away from Target, Kirkwood pulled alongside Bowen and asked Bowen if he knew where they were headed. Bowen replied something similar to, ‘I can’t tell you but you’re going to like where we’re going,'” the police reports allege.
- There are conflicting reports about whether Bowen himself threw toilet paper during the mob attack.
- There is no evidence that Bowen tried to stop the attack.
- According to reports, while referring to a bullhorn that was cracked over Officer Joseph Mensah’s head, Bowen allegedly told protesters, “It was good that we got at him, and now Alvin Cole’s mom has a souvenir.” Cole was the armed teen shot by Mensah outside Mayfair Mall after Cole discharged a firearm near the officer, according to the DA. The shooting was ruled justified self defense.
- A People’s Revolution member alleged that Bowen shouted an expletive at the officer during the attack.
- Bowen is accused of being present when People’s Revolution member Khalil Coleman allegedly instructed people to delete videos of the incident, police reports contend.
- Bowen has been named in a citation relating to a separate incident that says he and a Tammy Baldwin staffer refused to comply with police officers’ requests that they comply with an emergency order and get out of the road.
Now it appears Legislative leaders want to do something about it – or at least consider doing something about it.
Bowen’s refusal to talk to police was not without consequence; police never brought to justice various people accused of physically assaulting the two officers and another eyewitness account might have helped secure prosecution.
“I didn’t get the email from the police chief, but it’s something we’ll be talking about as a caucus,” Steineke pledged to the constituent, who sent the Jan. 21 exchange to Wisconsin Right Now.
The concerned constituent sent our previous story on Weber’s letter – and the Legislature’s non-response – to Steineke. As we reported a few days ago, Weber told legislators in September that Bowen “actively participated in this incident,” labeling the legislator’s behavior “appalling” and saying it made a “mockery” of the justice system. But they didn’t even bother to write back. He requested discipline, for which there is precedent – the Legislature censured Rep. Jeff Wood in 2010 for behavior that “brought disrepute on the Wisconsin state assembly by damaging the institution’s integrity with the public.”
“Sir, I request that this matter be brought to the attention of the membership and that disciplinary action up to and including expulsion be considered,” requested the chief, who asked that the Republicans in the Legislature live up to their law-and-order rhetoric.
The caucus refers to Republicans meeting privately to discuss strategy and other issues.
Chief Weber’s Complaint Letter
On September 1, Weber wrote Vos the scathing complaint letter about David Bowen.
“On Aug. 10, 2020, State Representative David Bowen issues a press statement on official state letterhead, regarding an incident that he was present at, on Aug. 8, 2020,” it reads.
“On that date a group of people who refer to themselves as ‘The People’s Revolution,’ including Mr. Bowen went to the residence of a Wauwatosa Police Officer, Joseph Mensah, and proceeded to verbally attack him, physically assault him, and trespass on his property. A shot was fired in Mensah’s direction into his house from a shotgun.”
The chief added, “Representative Bowen actively participated during this incident and claimed the officer’s statements were not factual. He accused not only the officer but also the Wauwatosa Police Department of issuing a false statement. He further claimed that Officer Mensah caused the entire problem. That is not true. Mr. Bowen lied in his publicly issued statement.”
Weber’s letter to Vos continues, “For almost a week following the incident, our investigators attempted to contact Mr. Bowen to give us information since he claimed to be a witness. He did not acknowledge our attempts to contact him. In fact, he had his attorney contact us and advise that he would not give a statement.”
The chief said, “The person who fired the weapon at Officer Mensah was subsequently identified by our investigators, was arrested and confessed to the actions that he took. The weapon was also recovered. The weapon was also recovered after a search warrant was issued. Mr. Bowen was also an active participant at an unlawful gathering in front of my home that occurred the previous night, August 7, 2020.”
The chief’s request came via a formal letter to Vos. The chief requested that the letter be “brought to the attention of membership.” Here it is in full:
“I find the conduct of Mr. Bowen to be appalling and disgusting. He has made a mockery of our system of law and order in Wisconsin, and has brought disgrace to the office in which he serves,” Weber wrote Vos.
Past Precedent For Legislator Discipline
There would be precedent for the Legislature to heed Weber’s request. Thirteen legislators have been disciplined in the Wisconsin Legislature’s history, according to a 2020 Legislative Reference Bureau report called “Discipline in the Wisconsin Legislature: A History of Reprimand, Censure, Suspension, and Expulsion.”
Expulsion is historically rare in the Wisconsin Legislature. It’s happened twice, the report says: “Councilman James R. Vineyard for the murder of another member of the 1842 territorial legislature and Senator Frank Raguse for treasonous words spoken on the senate floor in debate during World War I in 1917.”
However, there are other options that don’t require a two thirds vote. The report says:
The Wisconsin Constitution gives the legislature the power to expel its members with a two-thirds majority vote. In this way, the severest of penalties requires an affirmative vote of an extraordinary majority of each house. The Assembly and Senate may also punish their members for contempt and disorderly behavior. Since there is no supermajority requirement for punishing contempt or disorderly behavior, legislative discipline for these actions requires only a majority vote of members present, assuming a quorum exists. As with the expulsion of members, the constitution provides no clear or explicit grounds for disciplining a member. Each house of the legislature alone determines the permissible boundaries of conduct subject to expulsion and discipline…Another punishment that could be used by the legislature is to impose a monetary fine on members for their contempt or disorderly behaviors.
According to The Atlantic, expulsion was contemplated against state Rep. Bill Kramer, a Republican accused of sexual harassment.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently called for three Republicans to be expelled from Congress – Ron Johnson, Scott Fitzgerald and Tom Tiffany – over voter fraud statements, even though Johnson voted to certify the election. The newspaper has made no similar call to expel Bowen for his comments and presence at a riot in which two police officers were beaten and a gun was discharged near them.
David Bowen has urged removal of the president for the Capitol riots, writing, “A non debatable Impeachment & Removal vote in both the House and Senate scheduled for tonight be great… make a clean up or down vote and we see where ppl like Sen. Ron Johnson stand.”
We reached out to Bowen for his reaction to the allegations in the police report and he didn’t respond.
Disclosure: WRN contributor Jessica McBride is the niece of Wauwatosa Mayor Dennis McBride. Jim Piwowarcyzk, the owner of WRN, is the author of this story.