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Politics & Government

Suspended Milwaukee Police Officer Will Stand Trial In Death Of Joel Acevedo

Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office

Milwaukee police Officer Michael Mattioli will stand trial in the strangulation death of Joel Acevedo, who was attending a party at the officer’s house in April. Mattioli was off duty at the time. He's accused of putting Acevedo in a headlock, which turned out to be fatal.

Mattioli was bound over for trial following a preliminary hearing on Monday. He is charged with first-degree reckless homicide in the death of Acevedo. He’s currently suspended from the Milwaukee police force.

Only two people testified at Monday’s preliminary hearing. One was Sarah Blomme, an investigator with the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office. She described a 911 call that came on the morning of Sunday, April 19. Blomme told prosecutor Paul Tiffin that when she listened to it, she could hear the victim pleading with his attacker.

Blomme:  “I heard Joel Acevedo say, ‘I swear I’ll go home, I swear.’ ”

Tiffin: “Could you hear, besides the voices, any other activity going on?”

Blomme: “You could hear the sound of a struggle, distressed breathing, gasping noises.”

Blomme says after police officers were dispatched to the scene, she later viewed their body cam video. She says it shows Mattioli explaining to the officers what he says happened — that Mattioli called police after Acevedo started punching someone at the party. Blomme says Mattioli told the officers he tried to subdue Acevedo.

“He also said 'for the record, I will say that I held him on the ground, I had my arm around his neck. I did not squeeze as hard as I could because I know what’s deadly force and what’s not. I’m not that stupid. I wasn’t trying to cut off his air,' ” Blomme says.

Blomme says the body cam also shows the responding officers checking for a pulse on Acevedo. They performed CPR until Acevedo regained a pulse. Then, he was taken to St. Luke’s hospital where he was placed on a ventilator. Acevedo died at the hospital six days later, on April 25. Defense Attorney Michael Hart cross-examined Blomme. He wondered if other factors may have resulted in Acevedo’s death.

Hart: “Have you learned in the course of your investigation whether he had any underlying medical conditions before he went to his friend, Mr. Mattioli’s home?”

Blomme: “I do recall one individual mentioning he had some medical problems, but they were not specific on what those were.”

Hart also noted that Acevedo’s blood-alcohol level was nearly three times the legal limit at the time of the incident. Mattioli appeared for his hearing via Zoom, as did members of his defense team. But others, including members of the prosecution, appeared in person, in a courtroom at the Milwaukee County Jail. Members of the Acevedo family also viewed the proceedings in person, and at least one broke down and wept during the hearing. 

Because of the coronavirus, the Milwaukee County courts are giving people the option to appear via Zoom or in person. Those in the courtroom were wearing masks and practicing social distancing. Court Commissioner Barry Phillips set another hearing date for Sept. 8 in which Mattioli will be arraigned.

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