Milwaukee: Community hosts vigil for Joel Acevedo after killer cop is found not guilty
Milwaukee, WI – After a five-day trial, a jury acquitted former Milwaukee police officer Michael Mattioli of first-degree reckless homicide on Friday, November 10. Mattioli was on trial for the murder of Joel Acevedo, which took place in April 2020 and was one of the central cases during the 2020 uprising in Milwaukee.
Mattioli’s defense team successfully shifted the focus of the trial away from the 11-minute chokehold. Instead, the bulk of the trial revolved around discussions about Acevedo’s health issues. Ultimately, this strategy proved successful in keeping yet another killer cop away from prison. At the end of the trial, Acevedo’s father, José Acevedo, spoke to reporters and said, “The facts were there. They made their decision, and I totally disagree.”
The outpouring of support for the Acevedo family quickly materialized as dozens of community members gathered in the cold Friday night to hold a vigil for Acevedo. They placed 25 candles underneath his mural to represent each year of Acevedo’s life. Speaking at the vigil, Cecil Lacy, brother of Ernest Lacy who was killed by Milwaukee police in 1981 and spiritual counselor of the Acevedos, stated, “It hurts so bad to see the fight and the struggle, to be around the Acevedo family and to see what they’ve been through for the last three and a half years and for it to come to this.”
“We’re told to trust the system,” said Alan Chavoya, outreach chair of the Milwaukee Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, “but we then get results like this one. Another cop found ‘not guilty.’ So why are we continuously told to trust such a system?”
The frustrations with the verdict are informed by a long history of cops escaping conviction in Milwaukee and the U.S. in general. It took over three years and an entire movement to even get the killer cop to trial, but all those efforts were overturned in a five-day trial. The Milwaukee community will not accept the verdict, but it won’t succumb to pessimism either. As Chavoya stated, “This is but a hiccup on the long road to justice, and we know that we will get justice one day.”