play

Several employees have been fired by the Hyatt hotel operator that manages the downtown Milwaukee hotel where D’Vontaye Mitchell died, who was held face down by security guards near the entrance to the hotel.

Aimbridge Hospitality, the hotel’s operator, announced the decision in a statement late Wednesday night.

“The conduct we saw from several associates on June 30 violated our policies and procedures, and does not reflect our values as an organization or the behaviors we expect from our associates. Following review of their actions, their employment has been terminated. We will continue our independent investigation and do everything we can to support law enforcement with their investigation into this tragic incident.”

The move comes hours after Hyatt called for hotel workers involved in Mitchell’s death to be fired and face criminal charges. The hotel giant issued the statement on Wednesday afternoon, 10 days after Mitchell died outside the Kilbourn Avenue hotel.

“Hyatt joins the family of D’Vontaye Mitchell in their calls for transparency, accountability and justice for this senseless tragedy,” Hyatt’s statement said. “We believe that the employees of Aimbridge Hospitality who were involved should be terminated and that criminal charges should be filed.”

Earlier on Wednesday, the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement that it was investigating Mitchell’s death as a homicide. The DA’s office is awaiting the final autopsy from the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office before making its decision.

Mitchell family, supporters and attorneys held a demonstration outside of a police and court building. The family has been critical of what they describe as a lack of transparency and justice, noting that charges have not been filed against the worker.

At the demonstration, attorneys said they have spoken with a hotel worker who said security acted with excessive force and is prepared to testify to that effect should the case turn into legal action.

The final autopsy results will inform the ongoing police investigation and allow the district attorney’s office to “comprehensively evaluate the actions leading up to Mr. Mitchell’s death from the perspective of potential criminal liability,” according to the statement.

“All aspects of these actions, including Mr. Mitchell’s death and the use of force by hotel personnel, will be closely examined,” the statement said.

At a separate press conference on Wednesday, Milwaukee Police Chief Jeffrey Norman said he wanted to “set the record straight” in response to Mitchell’s death.

“If it’s not something being reviewed in a criminal nature, then why is the DA looking at it? So we need to make sure that we set the record straight in regard to what’s going on and who’s talking in our community,” he said. “This is still within the medical examiner’s office. This is still being reviewed for an autopsy from a standpoint of understanding exactly what happened.”

At the press conference with the chief, Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson said he spoke with the Mitchell family on Tuesday and called the death a “tragedy.” He said that the city’s Office of Community Wellness and Safety had been in touch with the family as well.

“It’s a family member who is no longer with them and that’s a tragedy regardless of how it happens,” Johnson said.

Mitchell, 43, died around 4 p.m. June 30 after allegedly entering the women’s bathroom at the hotel, located at Milwaukee, 333 W. Kilbourn Ave. Ben Crump, the civil rights attorney representing Mitchell’s family, said Mitchell was having a mental health crisis, but no information has yet to be released by the Milwaukee Police Department.

Police said in an initial news release that security held him down following what it described as a disturbance and subsequent fight as he was escorted out.

Mitchell’s family reacts to video of his death

Mitchell spent the last few minutes of his life being repeatedly beaten by a security guard with a retractable baton as onlookers failed to intervene, said attorneys for his family outside the DA’s office on Wednesday.

Members of Mitchell’s family, now planning his funeral, told reporters they were “repulsed and shocked” by video footage they viewed alongside Crump, and Milwaukee lawyers B’Ivory Lamarr and William Sulton.

The footage was supplied by Hyatt, shows Mitchell running from something or someone and seeking safety in the women’s bathroom in the hotel, the lawyers said.

“D’Vontaye was trying to run for his life,” said Sulton. It’s not clear what Mitchell was running from, attorneys team said.

When he was confronted by the guards, he had his hands up, but was dragged to the floor and beaten, while he begged for the blows to stop, according to the attorneys.

They joined dozens of supporters, many wearing T-shirts with Mitchell’s image, in marching from the District Attorney’s Office to the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee.

“To see them beat him over and over and over …. they could have stopped at any time,” said Mitchell’s wife DeAsia Harmon, her voice choked by tears. “They murdered him. They didn’t have to do him like that.”

Crump drew comparisons between Mitchell’s death, and those of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Trayvon Martin and other Black men and women who died during deadly encounters with law enforcement or persons acting in positions of authority.

Brenda Giles described her son as a harmless teddy bear and “a joy in his family.” She said she was “devastated” watching the videos on the eve of his funeral and pleaded with prosecutors to issue charges in Mitchell’s death.

“I always thought my son would be the one to bury me, not for me to be burying him,” Giles said. “We won’t let this be swept under the rug.”