Acevedo Family Pledges Push For Justice
They demand officer Michael Mattioli be fired, his alleged accomplices be charged in death of their son Joel.
For José and Maribel Acevedo, the holiday season will come and go without their son, Joel. The 25-year-old was killed in April after being put in a chokehold by former Milwaukee police officer Michael Mattioli, at a party the off-duty cop held at his home, flouting the state’s Safer at Home order which was in effect at the time. After months of laying low, Acevedo’s family is vowing to use 2021 to raise awareness of the case and to demand that everyone involved in Acevedo’s death be held accountable.
Their renewed efforts began Dec. 22, in front of the West Allis home where Mattioli used to live. Despite Gov. Tony Evers having enacted a Safer at Home order prohibiting gatherings and non-essential travel, Mattioli decided to hold a party at his house in April. Several people attended including other police officers and Acevedo, who knew Mattioli. Mattioli claimed Acevedo stole something from his home. For that, Mattioli subjected Acevedo to a chokehold, as two others who attended the party held him down on his stomach. Acevedo’s father identified them as Christopher Peters and former parole officer Andrew Janowski.
Acevedo’s parents decry the fact that two of the involved men are being treated as witnesses rather than as parties to a crime. “From day one we’ve been arguing with John Chisholm,” said José Acevedo, standing beside his wife and children outside Mattioli’s former home, now occupied by a family who had no idea that their new home was the scene of Acevedo’s death. “We’ve been going back and forth with the DA’s office. John Chisholm specifically told me, and my daughter, not to pay attention to the two so-called ‘witnesses’.’’ The father added that he was told, “they needed the two witnesses in order to charge him. It just goes to show the system that we have in Milwaukee.”
Along with the 911 call, there’s also body camera footage which the family says depicts Acevedo’s killing. Mattioli, however, has sued to attempt to keep the body camera footage and other evidence from going public. “It’s tough as a parent,” said Acevedo’s father. “I saw the body cam. I saw my son lifeless sitting on the floor there, still being choked by Mattioli.”
On Dec. 23 the family demonstrated in front of a Milwaukee-area probation office, which once employed Janowski. During that demonstration, with the help of protesters from The People’s Revolution (TPR), the family re-enacted how Acevedo was choked on the ground.
“What’s in the darkness is going to come out to the light,” said José Acevedo, “and it’s starting to.” The family is demanding that Janowski and Peters be charged with crimes rather than treated as witnesses. “We need to get these people charged,” said José Acevedo. “They played a big role in killing my son,” he continued, referencing the 911 call. “We know if he were fighting, that he would have been talking a lot differently. This is the narrative that they keep painting.”
During both back-to-back days of demonstrating, the family had trouble hiding their pain. Tears welled in their eyes as the mother, father, and remaining siblings and family members comforted one another. Above all else, the family wants to combat the narratives painting Acevedo as the problem. “He was a good person!” said his mother. “Did Joel sound like he was attacking? The ‘threat’ that he had was only a cry to go home. So you answer me that question. He wanted to go home, and they held him captive, they did not let him go home. That is a crime that they all committed.” She added, “there’s no justification for my son’s murder! Period!”
The next hearing for Mattioli’s homicide charges is scheduled for March 8, 2021. “It’s important for the public to see how these police officers are engaged in excessive force and brutality,” says attorney Benjamin Crump, who is representing the family. “Especially against minorities.” Crump has also said that a civil rights wrongful death lawsuit is in the works.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that two police officers helped hold Joel Acevedo down when he was held in a chokehold. That is incorrect.
Reprinted with permission of Wisconsin Examiner.
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