Calls for justice grow in death of Black man outside Milwaukee hotel as GOP convention approaches

Jul 10, 2024, 11:37 AM | Updated: 4:02 pm

Calls for justice in the death of a Black man who was pinned to the ground during a struggle with security guards at a Milwaukee hotel are growing as thousands of GOP supporters and protesters are expected to gather in the city for the Republican National Convention.

Dvontaye Mitchell’s death on June 30 has become the most recent flashpoint in how the nation confronts race and what some see as the systemic brutality of Black people by members of law enforcement or others in authority about four years after the May 2020 killing of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis.

The outcry comes as Milwaukee is already dealing with heightened security concerns around political protests days before the July 15 start of the convention.

“Just because they have a big event coming up in Milwaukee, the killing of Dvontaye Mitchell is just as important as anything else that’s going to happen in Milwaukee this month,” noted civil rights attorney Ben Crump told reporters Monday.

“We will demand justice every day this week, every day next week and every day after that,” said Crump, who is part of a team of lawyers representing Mitchell’s family. His relatives have called for charges to be filed against those responsible for his death.

Crump also represented the family of Floyd, whose death spurred worldwide protests against racial violence and police brutality.

Mitchell, 43, died at the Hyatt Regency after four security guards held him down on his stomach, media outlets have reported. Police have said Mitchell entered the hotel, caused a disturbance and fought with the guards as they were escorting him out.

The medical examiner’s office has said the preliminary cause of death was homicide, but the cause remains under investigation. No one has been criminally charged so far.

The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office said Wednesday that it and police investigators were awaiting full autopsy results and that the case was being reviewed as a homicide.

“The autopsy results will inform the ongoing police investigation into Mr. Mitchell’s death and allow our office to comprehensively evaluate the actions leading up to Mr. Mitchell’s death from the perspective of potential criminal liability,” the district attorney’s office said. “All aspects of these actions, including Mr. Mitchell’s death and the use of force by hotel personnel, will be closely examined.”

Mitchell’s family wants some evidence, particularly security camera video, made public.

Crump said video recorded by a bystander and circulating on social media shows excessive force was used by security guards to subdue Mitchell.

“In the video you see them with their knees on his back and neck,” Crump said. “You see what appears to be (a security guard) hitting him in the head with some object. You see them pull his shirt over his head, stifling not only his sound but, we believe, his breath.”

“Everybody in America, after George Floyd, should have trained their employees, especially security personnel, to not put knees on peoples’ backs and peoples’ necks,” Crump added.

It is unclear why Mitchell was at the hotel or what happened before the guards pinned him down. The Milwaukee County medical examiner’s initial report said he was homeless, but a cousin told The Associated Press on Wednesday that was incorrect.

A spokesperson for Aimbridge Hospitality, which runs the Hyatt Regency in Milwaukee, said in a statement that it extends its condolences to Mitchell’s family and supports the investigation.

Mitchell was born and raised in Milwaukee, according to his first cousin Samantha Mitchell, 37, and any mental illness he may have had was undiagnosed.

“Dvontaye loved to cook,” she said. “He was overprotective of his family, especially his younger cousins. He was a jokester. He really clung to a lot of our male cousins growing up, enjoying life together.”

She said the family changed his funeral from Saturday to Thursday so its significance would not be overshadowed by the GOP convention.

“We need to keep this in the light and not swept under the rug,” Mitchell said. “Regardless of the convention going on, this is still a matter that needs attention from everyone, no matter what party you are with. I want to see people speak about it while they’re here for the convention. That will say a lot.”

The Associated Press sent an email Wednesday to representatives of the Republican National Convention for comment on Dvontaye Mitchell’s death.

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Calls for justice grow in death of Black man outside Milwaukee hotel as GOP convention approaches