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Dvontaye Mitchell died after being held down by hotel security. Here’s what we know

Video footage shows that Dvontaye Mitchell, 43, was held on the ground by multiple guards outside the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Milwaukee; he was declared dead soon afterward. The area where police say the struggle took place is seen here in a Google Maps image from 2022.<br>
Google Maps / Screenshot by NPR
Video footage shows that Dvontaye Mitchell, 43, was held on the ground by multiple guards outside the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Milwaukee; he was declared dead soon afterward. The area where police say the struggle took place is seen here in a Google Maps image from 2022.

Updated July 11, 2024 at 10:53 AM ET

The family of Dvontaye Mitchell wants answers and accountability for his death, more than a week after Mitchell, a Black man, died after being detained by security guards at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Milwaukee. Video footage shows that Mitchell, 43, was held on the ground by multiple people before he died.

In video from the scene, Mitchell is heard yelling “Please!” as guards hold him, shouting at him, “Stay down! Stop fighting!”

When police officers arrived, they found Mitchell unresponsive.

Attorney Ben Crump, who is representing Mitchell’s family, says the case raises questions about the use of force and how security personnel respond to mental health emergencies.

“The circumstances surrounding Dvontaye’s death outside the Hyatt Regency Hotel are disturbing and as described by a witness, reminiscent of the killing of George Floyd,” Crump said in a statement sent to NPR. Floyd, who was Black, died in Minneapolis in 2020 after a white police officer pressed his knee on Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes. The officer, Derek Chauvin was ultimately found guilty for Floyd's murder.

Here’s what we know about Mitchell’s death:

Mitchell died on June 30

Mitchell died sometime after 3 p.m., after a struggle began with security guards outside the entrance of the Hyatt Regency Hotel at 333 W. Kilbourn Ave, according to the Milwaukee Police Department.

“A witness reported seeing three to four security guards with their knees on Mitchell’s neck and back and one of them striking him in the head with an object,” Crump’s office said.

Video footage posted online appears to show a group of security guards using their body weight against Mitchell, who seems to be held face-down on the pavement.

Security guards have been fired

The Hyatt in central Milwaukee is a franchise property operated by Texas-based Aimbridge Hospitality. A spokesperson for Aimbridge told NPR on Thursday that it has fired the guards involved in the incident, saying their conduct "violated our policies and procedures, and does not reflect our values as an organization or the behaviors we expect from our associates."

"We will continue our independent investigation and do everything we can to support law enforcement with their investigation into this tragic incident," the spokesperson said.

The guards involved in the incident were initially suspended; a Hyatt spokesperson told NPR on Wednesday that they should be terminated and face criminal charges.

The Hyatt spokesperson said each of the two companies are investigating Mitchell’s death. Both of them have also offered condolences to Mitchell’s family and loved ones.

In a statement on Saturday, Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP, called on Hyatt Hotels to take the “necessary measures” for the safety of all guests and visitors and urged authorities to take "swift and decisive action" in the investigation.

"Once again, another Black family is left to mourn the loss of their loved one at the hands of excessive force," Johnson said. "Charges must be filed against all individuals responsible ... anything less would be a signal to Black America that their lives are not valued at these establishments."

Details about what took place are scant

“An individual entered a business and caused a disturbance. The individual fought with security guards as they were escorting the individual out,” the police said in response to NPR’s request for an account of Mitchell’s death.

“Security detained the individual until police arrived. Upon arrival, the individual was unresponsive and despite lifesaving measures, the 43-year-old individual was pronounced deceased.”

Witnesses told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the struggle lasted as long as 10 minutes or more; they also said they heard comments suggesting that Mitchell allegedly tried to go into the women’s bathroom inside the hotel.

Investigators are treating the death as a homicide

The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office is treating Mitchell’s death as a homicide, “but the final manner [of death] is yet to be determined,” Karen Domagalski, the office’s operations manager, told NPR.

An autopsy was performed on Mitchell, “and the cause of death is pending toxicology and further investigation,” she said.

When contacted by NPR, the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office stated, "Our office is reviewing Mr. Mitchell’s death as a homicide case."

“Mr. Mitchell’s death is a tragedy, and we extend our deepest condolences to his family,” District Attorney John Chisholm said in a statement.

Staff from the prosecutor's office gave an update on the investigation Wednesday to William Sulton, another attorney representing Mitchell’s family. In that meeting, Sulton saw video footage and other evidence related to the investigation, the prosecutor's office said.

Police say they’re still investigating

Copyright 2024 NPR

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
Jonathan Franklin is a digital reporter on the News desk covering general assignment and breaking national news.