Milwaukee hotel staff fired after death of black man pinned down outside

The employees allegedly involved in the death of a black man who was pushed to the ground outside a downtown Milwaukee hotel have been fired, the hotel’s operator announced late Wednesday night.

Aimbridge Hospitality said: “We are saddened and shocked by what happened to Dvontaye Mitchell at the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee and we extend our deepest condolences to his family and loved ones.

“The behavior we witnessed from several employees on June 30 violated our policies and procedures and does not reflect our values ​​as an organization or the behavior we expect of our employees. Following a review of their actions, their employment has been terminated. We will continue our independent investigation and do everything we can to support law enforcement in their investigation into this tragic incident.”

Hyatt said in an earlier statement that it “joins the family of D’Vontaye Mitchell in their calls for transparency, accountability and justice for this senseless tragedy. We believe the Aimbridge Hospitality employees involved should be terminated and criminal charges should be filed.”

The family is also demanding that charges be filed.

Mitchell, 43, died at the Hyatt Regency after four guards held him down and pinned him to his stomach, media reported. Police have said Mitchell entered the hotel, caused a commotion and fought with hotel employees as they escorted him out. The family disputes that account.

The coroner’s office has said the preliminary cause of death was homicide, but the cause is still under investigation. So far, no criminal charges have been filed.

The Milwaukee County Prosecutor’s Office said Wednesday that it is working with police to await full autopsy results and is investigating the case as a homicide.

This undated photo of D’Vontaye Mitchell was provided to The Associated Press by his niece, Samantha Mitchell.

Samantha Mitchell / AP

Mitchell’s family furious and shocked

At an afternoon press conference Wednesday at the district attorney’s office, Mitchell’s family and their attorneys showed surveillance and body camera footage showing an unarmed man fleeing for his life as he was punched and kicked.

“What I saw today was disgusting. It makes me sick,” said Mitchell’s widow, DeAsia Harmon. “He was running for his life. He was trying to leave. He said, ‘I’m going,’ and they wouldn’t let him go.”

Harmon said the video showed a bleeding Mitchell being dragged from the hotel. “They didn’t stop. They could have let him go, but they didn’t,” she said.

Prominent civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump said the family’s legal team also has a signed statement from a hotel employee who said a security guard struck Mitchell with a baton and that Mitchell posed no threat when he was on the ground. The employee said a security guard ordered him and a bellhop to restrain Mitchell, Crump continued.

Another attorney, William Sulton, said the hotel video showed a hotel security guard on duty taking a photo of Mitchell’s lifeless body while the guard was being questioned by police. “Absolutely disgusting,” Sulton said.

Mitchell’s sister, Nayisha Mitchell, told CBS Milwaukee station WDJT-TV after watching the video, “When I see it up close, I can tell you it’s much, much, much, much worse.”

DeAsia Harmon told the station that it was “extremely difficult to see those involved, to see their faces, to see that they showed no remorse.”

Sulton told WDJT that authorities’ original story — that security guards detained Mitchell for going into a women’s restroom — is false. “A security guard who was not on duty attacked D’Vontaye. D’Vontaye ran away from that person,” he said.

Sulton added that Mitchell went to the ladies’ room to get away from the attacker, and Hyatt employees — including a bellhop and a receptionist — then dragged him out.

Sulton said they “pushed his head into the ground so hard he was bleeding. Forehead, nose, mouth.”

Sulton told WDJT that Mitchell did nothing to provoke the incident. “There was no criminal conduct by D’Vontaye Mitchell,” he said.

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

According to Crump, video footage recorded by a bystander and circulating on social media also shows the security guards using excessive force to get Mitchell under control.

“In the video you see them with their knees on his back and his neck,” Crump said, and the security guard appears to hit Mitchell in the head with an object. “You see them pull his shirt over his head, which not only stifles his voice but, we believe, his breathing.”

Shawn Moore told CBS News on Tuesday that he witnessed part of the incident when he walked to a nearby Walgreens to pick up some things for his son. He said he was walking toward the hotel when he heard screaming.

The four guards didn’t release Mitchell until the police officers arrived at the hotel, Moore said. He recalled that “one of them held his ankles while the other three applied pressure above his waist to keep him on the ground.”

According to his 37-year-old cousin Samantha Mitchell, Mitchell was born and raised in Milwaukee and had never been diagnosed with any mental illness.

“D’Vontaye loved to cook,” she said. “He was overprotective of his family, especially his younger cousins. He was a jokester. He really bonded with a lot of our male cousins ​​as we were growing up, and enjoyed life together.”

GOP Convention, George Floyd, Racial Justice

She said the family moved the funeral from Saturday to Thursday so its significance would not be overshadowed by the Republican Party convention in Milwaukee, which begins next week.

“We need to keep this in the light and not sweep it under the rug,” Mitchell said. “Regardless of the convention that’s going on, this is still an issue that needs attention from everyone, regardless of party. I want people to talk about it while they’re here for the convention. That will say a lot.”

Mitchell’s death has become the latest flashpoint in the nation’s approach to race and what some see as the systematic brutality of black people by members of law enforcement or others in authority, four years after the death of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis in May 2020.

“Just because there’s a big event coming up in Milwaukee, the murder of D’Vontaye Mitchell is just as important as anything that’s going to happen in Milwaukee this month,” Crump told reporters on Monday.

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

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

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