I had not heard of Wauwatosa, Wisc. prior to being alerted about potential riots breaking out in wake of the Milwaukee County District Attorney's office deciding whether or not to charge Wauwatosa officer Joseph Mensah with the death of 17-year-old Alvin Cole.
When I finally looked up where Wauwatosa was located, I realized it was not all that far away from Kenosha, Wisc., a town I had become very familiar with after covering the riots that broke out in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake. But I wondered why I had not heard about this case before. It was then I discovered the incident between Mensah, who is black, and Cole had occurred on Feb. 2. Cole allegedly fired his handgun at the officer and refused to drop it, at which point Mensah returned fire.
Even though the shooting occurred in Feb., long before the nationwide unrest surround the George Floyd case, the DA's decision not to charge Mensah would have consequences.
Riots occurred even before all the facts were known in any subsequent shooting, especially if it involved a white officer and a black person. This was made clear after the riots in Kenosha, Wisc. and Lancaster, Penn. The silver lining to those tragic situations is they served as a warning to the rest of the country: If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere.
It's because of the massive destruction in Kenosha, that Wauwatosa was better prepared for the unrest after it was announced the Milwaukee County DA would not be filing charges against Mensah. The National Guard was brought in to protect key sites, including the mall where the shooting took place.
Unfortunately, it was not enough to prevent some destruction to businesses and, most shockingly, homes. The BLM crowd had caravanned from Milwaukee to the outskirts of Wauwatosa. It was when they reached the city limits of Wauwatosa that some turned from protesters to rioters. That's when police were able to declare the caravan an unlawful assembly and stop them from heading further into town.
When everything was all said and done, tear gas had been deployed, around $10,000 worth in damage was done to the homes, and some businesses were not just damaged but looted.
The tragedy of the situation really struck me when I was walking in the neighborhoods the next morning as I went to interview locals.
"This looks almost exactly where I grew up," I thought to myself, referring to the suburbs outside of Chicago.
Wauwatosa had become the latest victim of violence from quiet possibly people who were not even from the city, as many of them caravanned back to Milwaukee once it became clear they would be unable to reach further into the city because of the police blockades.
I left on Thursday, but things flared up again on Friday, though this was closer to Wauwatosa's city hall:
Heavy dose of tear gas and pepper balls deployed. This is the worst I ever got it pic.twitter.com/vC3B3ZA0FZ— Ricardo???? ????Torres (@RicoReporting) October 10, 2020
Wauwatosa once again proved no place is safe from riots breaking out and with the election drawing near, it's going to be up to voters to decide who they feel will be the best person to finally get this violence to stop.