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A Black man died after he was pinned to the ground by security guards at a Milwaukee hotel. Now his family wants answers

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A Black man died after he was pinned to the ground by security guards at a Milwaukee hotel. Now his family wants answers




CNN
 — 

The death of a Black man after he was pinned to the ground by security guards at a Wisconsin hotel last month is being investigated as a homicide, as members of his family and their attorneys on Wednesday called for criminal charges and marched to the hotel in protest of the fatal encounter that was partly captured on video.

Dvontaye Mitchell, 43, was at the downtown Hyatt Regency in Milwaukee on June 30, when police allege he “caused a disturbance,” prompting security guards to escort him out of the hotel, a statement from Mitchell family attorney Ben Crump said.

Part of a video posted on social media shows security guards and others pinning Mitchell to the ground. Mitchell can be heard grunting and pleading with the guards, repeatedly saying “please” and “I’m sorry.”

One of the guards, who appears to be White, can be heard saying “stay down,” and “stop fighting,” as the others, who appear to be people of color, hold Mitchell down, the video shows. The same guard is heard calling out to witnesses, “This is what happens when you go into the ladies room.”

At a news conference Wednesday, Crump and other attorneys for Mitchell’s family described what they said were portions of bystander and hotel security footage that showed Mitchell running away from security, later being shoved to the ground outside, where he was held down, beaten and kicked. CNN has not seen the footage.

“This was outrageous and one of the most disgusting things that I’ve seen in 15 years of practice as an attorney,” said William Sulton, who is also representing the family.

Mitchell’s family planned to hold a candlelight vigil outside the hotel Wednesday evening.

“To see him go out this world the way he did, that was devastating. That would never leave my mind, that’s going to live with me for the rest of my life,” Mitchell’s mother, Brenda Giles, told reporters Wednesday.

It’s unclear what led up to Mitchell’s encounter with the security guards, how long it took police officers to arrive on the scene, and what Mitchell was doing at the hotel.

When officers arrived, Mitchell was unresponsive and pronounced dead despite lifesaving measures, Milwaukee Police told CNN on Tuesday without mentioning Mitchell by name.

Crump said his office had obtained an affidavit from an unidentified hotel employee who claimed he reluctantly helped hold down Mitchell after being ordered to do so by a security guard. Crump said he would turn the document over to prosecutors but did not release it publicly.

The local prosecutor is investigating Mitchell’s death as a homicide, he said.

“Mr. Mitchell’s death is a tragedy, and we extend our deepest condolences to his family,” said Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm said in a statement Wednesday.

Prosecutors met and briefed an attorney for Mitchell’s family on the investigation and shared video footage and other evidence, Chisholm said.

Prosecutors were awaiting full autopsy results that Chisholm said will “allow our office to comprehensively evaluate the actions leading up to Mr. Mitchell’s death from the perspective of potential criminal liability.”

“All aspects of these actions, including Mr. Mitchell’s death and the use of force by hotel personnel, will be closely examined,” Chisholm said.

The preliminary manner of death for Mitchell is homicide, Karen Domagalski from the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office told CNN on Tuesday, but the final manner is yet to be determined.

“The cause and manner of death is pending toxicology and further investigation, Domagalski said. “We do not have a timeline for when this case will be finalized.”

The encounter comes as the use of force – particularly against people of color – by police and others in authority roles remains under scrutiny nearly four years after protests flared nationwide following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

Now, every time Mitchell’s children turn on the TV, they are reminded of how their father died, DeAsia Harmon, Mitchell’s widow, told CNN affiliate WTMJ on Monday.

“We couldn’t even go into the grocery store with my daughter without her being afraid of the security standing at the door,” Harmon said. “She said, ‘is all security bad or just the ones who murdered my dad.’”

The security guards involved in the incident have been suspended. Aimbridge Hospitality, which operates the downtown Hyatt Regency Milwaukee, is still completing its investigation, a Hyatt spokesperson told CNN on Monday.

“We extend our heartfelt condolences to Dvontaye Mitchell’s family, all those who knew and loved him, and the Milwaukee community in light of this tragedy,” the spokesperson said. “As the investigation continues, Hyatt is fully committed to supporting efforts to help ensure accountability for the circumstances that led to the death of Dvontaye Mitchell.”

In a statement Wednesday, Hyatt said it joined Mitchell’s family “in their calls for transparency, accountability and justice for this senseless tragedy.”

“We believe that the employees of Aimbridge Hospitality who were involved should be terminated and that criminal charges should be filed,” the company said.

Milwaukee Police are not considering the incident as a criminal investigation because there isn’t any evidence of “blunt force,” according to Crump.

“It is unacceptable that this case is not being considered a criminal investigation despite the fatal outcome, which the medical examiner considers a homicide,” Crump said in a statement Wednesday.

There’s no timeline for a charging decision at the moment, the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office told CNN on Tuesday.

Giles said her eldest son was a jolly and outgoing brother, uncle and father who loved his family, she told WTMJ.

“Everybody that knows him, to know him is to love him, they know,” his sister, Nayisha Mitchell told the station. “They knew he was a good person.”

Mitchell loved music and art, his mother told reporters Wednesday. He loved walking and cooking. “He loved to dance, and he was harmless. I always called him my big teddy bear,” Giles said.

When Mitchell’s father passed away in 2016, Mitchell fell into depression, his family told WTMJ. Giles believes her son was suffering from a mental health episode at the time of the incident, according to Crump.

Ebony Cox/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/USA Today Network

DeAsia Harmon is seen to the left of attorney Ben Crump, center, during a Monday news conference outside the Milwaukee hotel where Devontaye Mitchell died in June.

Shawn Moore, a witness who recorded parts of the interaction, told WTMJ he wishes he had done more.

“What I ended up capturing was another Black man in Milwaukee dealing with mental issues losing his life over nothing,” he said.

Family and friends held a vigil for Mitchell over the weekend outside the downtown Hyatt Regency echoing similar sentiments of calls for justice.

CNN’s Ray Sanchez, Sara Smart and Rebekah Riess contributed to this report.



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