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Calls for justice grow after black man killed outside Milwaukee hotel ahead of Republican convention

Calls for justice grow after black man killed outside Milwaukee hotel ahead of Republican convention

(AP) — 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.

The death of D’Vontaye Mitchell on June 30 became the latest flashpoint in the nation’s reckoning with race and what some see as the systemic brutality of Black people by members of law enforcement or others in positions of authority, four years after the killing of George Floyd in May 2020 by a white police officer in Minneapolis.

The outcry comes as Milwaukee is already facing heightened security concerns related to political protests just days before the convention begins on July 15.

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

“We’re going to 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 family has called for charges to be brought against those responsible for the 43-year-old’s death.

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

“Everybody 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.

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

Mitchell died at the Hyatt Regency hotel after four security guards held him down on his stomach, media reported. Police said Mitchell entered the hotel, caused chaos and fought with security guards who were escorting him out.

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

The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office said Wednesday that it and police investigators are awaiting complete autopsy results and that the case is being investigated as a homicide.

Surveillance video from inside the hotel viewed by Mitchell’s family and their attorneys at the district attorney’s office Wednesday showed an unarmed man running for his life while being punched and kicked, they said at an afternoon news conference.

“What I saw today is disgusting. It hurts my heart,” said Mitchell’s widow, DeAsia Harmon. “He was running for his life. He was trying to get away. He said, ‘I’m going to go,’ but they wouldn’t let him go.”

According to Harmon, the video shows a bleeding Mitchell being dragged out of the hotel. “They didn’t stop. They could have let him go, but they didn’t,” she said.

Crump said the family’s legal team also has a statement signed by a hotel employee who said a security guard was hitting Mitchell with a baton and that Mitchell posed no threat while he was on the ground. The employee said a security guard ordered him and a bellman to help hold Mitchell down, Crump said.

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

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

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

“In the video, you see them with their knees on his back and 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, muffling not only his voice but, we believe, his breathing.”

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

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

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

“We need to keep this issue in the spotlight and not sweep it under the rug,” Mitchell said. “Regardless of what convention is going on, this is something that deserves everyone’s attention, regardless of what party you belong to. I want people to talk about it while they’re here for the convention. It will speak volumes.”

The AP emailed Republican National Convention officials Wednesday seeking comment on Mitchell’s death.

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This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Mitchell’s first name to D’Vontaye, not Dvontaye.