MILWAUKEE — The family of a man allegedly killed at the hands of an off-duty Milwaukee officer filed a public records lawsuit against the police department Monday. It comes after a preliminary hearing for Michael Mattioli was adjourned until the end of August.
Joel Acevedo’s parents, Jose and Maribel, are taking their demands to court, suing the Milwaukee Police Department for denying their open records request.
They want the immediate release of the 911 call and body camera footage from that day back in April when investigators say Officer Michael Mattioli placed Joel in a chokehold that went too far, killing him. According to the criminal complaint, Mattioli had some friends at his house while he was off-duty, and he told police the next day he woke up to find Joel going through the pockets of his pants and that Joel punched someone else in the house.
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TMJ4 News talked with the family and their attorneys exclusively as they filed the lawsuit electronically from inside the Milwaukee County Courthouse.
“When the public sees that video and hears the 911, they’re going to see what we’ve been fighting for that we’re not lying,” Jose said.
“We don’t want a false narrative to justify this because this is unjustifiable,” Maribel said.
The Acevedo's and their attorneys have heard the call and seen the video, which they say will prove Joel was defending himself.
Their legal team now includes well-known civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump in addition to attorney B’Ivory LaMarr. Crump currently represents the family of George Floyd, who died at the hands of Minneapolis police officers in May.
“If you have nothing to hide why won’t you release the video? If you’re not trying to sweep it under the rug, release the video,” Crump said.
The lawsuit claims the Milwaukee Police Department rejected their open records request saying the information is related to a pending internal investigation.
It cites three reasons for releasing the 911 call and video. The first two are the fact that the criminal investigation is complete, and releasing the content “…will not harm the integrity of the upcoming disciplinary proceeding.”
“They have released the transcript of the body cam footage. Why can’t we see it?” LaMarr said, referring to the transcript in the criminal complaint.
The lawsuit also said that not releasing the video and 911 call will, “…undermine public confidence in law enforcement at a time when public trust is needed the most.”
“It’s not just for this family, it’s for some transparency because the citizens of Milwaukee have the right to know,” Crump said.
“I said it from day one, God himself is going to bring out from the dark into the light and he’s doing it right now,” Jose said.
In the late afternoon, the family and their attorneys held a rally outside the courthouse with community leaders and residents. They then marched to a mural of Joel on the city’s southside.
TMJ4 reached out to Mattioli’s attorney for comment on the lawsuit but have not heard back by the time this was published.
The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission is handling the disciplinary case against Mattioli, which could lead to his firing. Right now he remains on suspension and continues to receive a paycheck.
In response to the lawsuit, the Milwaukee Police Department released the following statement:
This matter is an open investigation in which the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office is investigating and issued criminal charges. Chief Morales continues to send his condolences to the Acevedo family.