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Milwaukee: Cop involved in the death of Joel Acevedo has yet to be charged with a crime

Case brings up memories of the past police crimes
By Ryan Hamann |
May 13, 2020
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Cop involved in the death of Joel Acevedo has yet to be charged with a crime

Milwaukee, WI - Three weeks ago, on the morning of April 19, an off-duty Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) officer named Michael Mattioli was arrested for beating someone into an unresponsive state at a party hosted at his, the cop’s, house on Milwaukee’s South Side. Mattioli was booked at Milwaukee County Jail on tentative charges of first-degree reckless injury and strangulation. He was released on April 23 after posting the $50,000 cash bail. Mattioli was placed on administrative duties and formally suspended by MPD after his arrest. He has a court date set for June 10.

The victim, Joel Acevedo, died of the injuries he sustained eight days later, on April 25. It’s unclear how or if these charges will change since Acevedo has passed away. What is clear is that Acevedo’s family is demanding justice and that Mattioli be charged with homicide.

Very little information has come out regarding the murder since MPD and the Wisconsin Department of Justice picked up the investigation. Milwaukee residents familiar with the track record of both MPD and the state DOJ when it comes to investigating and convicting killer cops are concerned that Officer Mattioli will get off free of charges.

“Milwaukee has a long history of holding cops above the law; to the extent that it provoked federal investigation of their police department,” said Omar Flores, an activist in the city. “I have little faith that justice will be served in this case. Certainly not without a movement of people demanding it.”

This tragic situation has raised the memory of another off-duty officer’s beating of oppressed nationalities that took place in Milwaukee in 2004.

Frank Jude, Jr. and Lovell Harris were invited to a party at a Milwaukee Police Department officer’s home where they were subsequently brutalized by a mob of off-duty cops. There was an officer who arrived on the scene in response to a 911 call, but he promptly joined in the beating. What followed eventually resulted in the biggest case against MPD in the previous 25 years (as of 2007, when the legal proceedings concluded).

Nearly a dozen MPD officers were implicated in the criminal assault of Jude and Harris. However, at the state trial in April 2006, an all-white jury acquitted the officers on four out of the five counts they were facing. The acquittal drew prompt community outrage. There were immediate calls for federal charges. Later that month, a crowd of several thousand people marched from the Milwaukee County Courthouse to the Federal Courthouse demanding a federal investigation. A month later, in May 2006, a procession of more than 300 cars delivered a petition to U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic, demanding the investigation. This demand was met and an investigation followed, resulting in a federal trial.

The outcome of the proceedings resulted in at least seven officers being sentenced to serve prison time. Additionally, seven years after the brutal racist assault, Frank Jude, Jr. won a $2 million settlement with the city of Milwaukee.

There are some differences between the two situations, the clearest being that one resulted in the death of the victim, but what is the same is that both situations involved racist attacks by MPD officers. Some justice was won for Jude and Harris. Justice needs to be won, not just for Acevedo, but for the family he left behind.

The Milwaukee Public Health and Safety Committee announced that MPD will be present at an upcoming meeting on May 14 to answer questions about the case. Community members looking to stay up to date and participate in the fight for justice should attend while adhering to proper health guidelines relating to the coronavirus.

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