Trial begins against IT tech and police officer who kept “protestor list” for Wauwatosa Police Department

May 1, 2023

By WCMCoop

Jay Johnson, Jr., Antonio Gonzales, and Alvin Cole were killed by Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah over the course of four years. Activists protesting Mensah’s acquittal have been targeted by Wauwatosa Police Officer Jospeh Roy and IT contractor Dominick Ratkowski as a part of the “protestor list.”

“Protestor List” trial begins in Milwaukee against Wauwatosa Police

The trial began today against Dominick Ratkowski, an IT contractor, and Officer Joseph Roy of the Wauwatosa Police Department for allegedly creating and using a “Protestor List” during the 2020 protests of the killing of three men by Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah.

The list was discovered when one of the victims’ family decided to reopen their son’s case. An open records request by the Wisconsin Examiner in July 2021 revealed the creation of a list of over 200 people who Ratkowski and Roy had identified as either leaders or threats.

The defendants are accused of violating the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) by allegedly obtaining and disclosing personal information from motor vehicles records for uses other than allowed by the DPPA. Of the over 200 people being targeted on the list, 46 plaintiffs appear to have had Department of Transportation information included on their portions of the list, potentially a violation of DPPA.

According to an article in Urban Milwaukee by Deja Vishny, who is on the list, Sgt. Cory Wex, a Wauwatosa Police Department (WPD) spokesperson, confirmed with Wisconsin Examiner that the list was shared with the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), and the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD).

Attorney Kimberley Motley has filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of the targets.

In 2021, when Motley was made aware of the list, she said, “Home addresses, phone numbers, make, model, and year of vehicles. It’s problematic for a lot of reasons. We have a Constitution that allows for people to peacefully protest and frankly, to survey and create lists of people who are invoking their constitutional rights to protest may give a real chilling effect against peacefully protesting. I think that police resources, perhaps, could be better utilized.”

During the lawsuit “Knowlton, et al. v. City of Wauwatosa,” Ratkowski testified that “the criteria for being added to the list was merely attending a protest—the individual need not have engaged in violence or have committed a crime to be included on the list.” He also testified that the list was updated hundreds of times from June 5, 2020, to January of 2021. The list included relatives of Alvin Cole, elected officials David Bowen and Jonathan Brostoff, and Wisconsin Examiner journalist Isiah Holmes.

On July 15, 2015, Mensah shot and killed Antonio Gonzalez after a 9-11 call. On June 23, 2016, the same officer shot and killed Jay Anderson, Jr. while he was sleeping in his car. In 2018, after Mensah had been previously cleared in those shooting deaths, the parents of Jay Anderson filed a “John Doe” and reopened the case against him. Despite the video evidence and testimony by several witnesses, the judge did not find enough to convict Mensah.

After Mensah killed again and shot Alvin Cole in February 2020, he once again was not charged. Attorney Kimberley Motley, representing the Cole family, pointed to the independent investigation which found Cole didn’t shoot at Mensah, as well as the report that recommended Mensah be fired. Steven Biskupic, a former US attorney hired as an independent investigator by the Wauwatosa Police and Fire Commission wrote in his report, “The risk and ensuing consequences to the Wauwatosa Police Department and the City of Wauwatosa of a fourth shooting by this Officer are too great for this Commission to find otherwise.” Mensah remained on paid leave until he resigned in November 2020, only to be hired at the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Office.

A week before the verdict was read in October 2020, the Mayor of Wautatosa Dennis McBride imposed a 7 PM curfew for three days, which activists ignored, shutting down the freeway and peacefully protesting in Wauwatosa and Milwaukee. Neighbors and residents of Wauwatosa were repeatedly teargassed while holding vigil for the dead men, and were the target of WPD militarized responses.

One of the plaintiffs in the case, Jill Ferguson was arrested on October 11, pulled over three nights after the Cole verdict. “I was clearly profiled, because the officer who initially pulled me over admitted to seeing my car in Wauwatosa on two prior evenings.” Ferguson was surrounded by 10 officers, including federal agents. “This feels like part of the ‘anti-protestor’ movement we’ve seen in the past years. They’re trying to label all peaceful protesters ‘rioters’ now.”

Ferguson was referring to Wisconsin Senate Bill 296 which created a definition of “riot” that would have authorized criminal charges against participants in a protest at which rioting broke out. Critics of the legislation warned that it left the door open to criminalizing nonviolent protest. After Gov. Evers vetoed the original bill, the Wisconsin Republicans have revitalized it, and wait to see if he will do that same again. Offers were made to settle the case, but the trial began on Monday and will go throughout the week.


2 Comments on “Trial begins against IT tech and police officer who kept “protestor list” for Wauwatosa Police Department”

  1. Jim May 2, 2023 at 4:13 pm #

    Hurley, Hayward, Waukesha & Hell

    • recubejim May 2, 2023 at 4:18 pm #

      Maybe Wauwaukesha should become a county.

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