A little more than a month after 25-year-old Joel Acevedo died after an altercation with a Milwaukee Police officer, his family made a public declaration Friday to bring his accused killer to justice.
And the family did it at the scene of the alleged crime, the home of the man charged in the case.
“We cannot stay quiet anymore,” said Jose Acevedo, Joel’s father. “This is not about violence. This is about what is right.”
Milwaukee Police officer Michael Mattioli, off-duty at the time of the incident, is accused of putting Acevedo in a fatal “chokehold” during an April fight at his house and has been charged with reckless homicide.
Acevedo died of his injuries a week after the incident.
Mattioli is free after posting $50,000 bail and is expected to make his first court appearance June 24 on a charge of first-degree reckless homicide. Although suspended from the police force, he is still receiving a paycheck.
On Friday, Acevedo’s family called for him to be fired immediately.
The city’s Fire and Police Commission has taken over the internal investigation and will decide what discipline he will face as a result. Community leaders, including Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, have called for Mattioli to be fired.
About 200 protesters, including many members of the Acevedo family, staged the rally in the 4500 block of West Cleveland Avenue in the Jackson Park neighborhood on the city’s south side.
Acevedo’s family members said they felt compelled to speak out in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. A former Minneapolis police officer has been arrested and charged with murder in that case.
“When I saw George Floyd’s situation out in the public, I imagined my son behind closed doors,” said Maribel Acevedo, Joel’s mother.
She was distraught when she spoke words her son said, according to the 911 tape from the incident: “Let me go home.”
“This is what we’re going for — justice,” she said. “What’s right is right, what’s wrong is wrong. The police has no authority to take life. God has all authority on the earth.”
“He was fun and loving, the life of the party,” Julissa Acevedo said of her brother Joel. “He was just one of a kind. No one in the world like him.”
B’Ivory Lamarr, the lawyer representing the family, said they “outright rejected the narrative” that Joel was “a thief or assaulted anyone on April 19. Those accounts and those assertions are completely advanced by the suspects in this case.”
Mattioli told police he woke up and saw Acevedo going through his pants pockets and that during the ensuing altercation Acevedo punched someone else in the house.
Lamarr also called for the arrest of two other individuals who were in the home and cited as witnesses in the charging documents.
“We believe that there is more than one individual involved in Joel’s death,” Lamarr said.
Community activist Tory Lowe, who helped organize the protest, said, “We are standing outside of this house today because this officer gets to come home and watch Netflix and order food, charged with reckless homicide … still getting a check. Is that right?”
At the end of the rally, protesters placed six candles on the front steps of the officer’s home, along with several signs, including one that read: “Mattioli You Are Not Above The Law.”
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