Robert Matagi pleads not guilty, accused in chase and crash that killed young father

Robert Matagi

MILWAUKEE -- Robert Matagi, the 18-year-old Franksville man accused in a fatal crash at 13th and Morgan during a pursuit on Milwaukee's south side, pleaded not guilty to the charges against him on Thursday afternoon, April 25. Matagi faces the following criminal charges:

    Prior to entering the pleas, Matagi waived his right to a preliminary hearing. The court found probable cause to bind Matagi over for trial.

    According to the criminal complaint, a short time after 5 p.m. on April 11, a Milwaukee County deputy observed a red car traveling southbound on I-43 near Lapham Street. The deputy noted the vehicle was “driving recklessly at a high speed and was using the distress lane to pass other vehicles.” The deputy activated the squad’s lights and siren and began a pursuit.

    Fatal crash near 13th and Morgan

    The complaint said the car exited the freeway at Holt Avenue — and proceeded west on Morgan Avenue. At 13th and Morgan, the complaint said the driver of the vehicle (Matagi) disregarded a red traffic signal and slammed into another vehicle at a high rate of speed. The red car also struck two other vehicles in the process. The complaint indicated Matagi jumped out of his vehicle — and began to run. A deputy caught up to him a short while later — and took him into custody.

    A female passenger that jumped from Matagi’s vehicle was “located in a nearby gas station attempting to conceal a firearm and suspected narcotics,” the complaint said.

    Fatal crash near 13th and Morgan

    The driver of the first vehicle that was struck, 25-year-old Pedro Colon-Ortiz, suffered severe injuries — and was eventually pronounced deceased.

    Robert Matagi

    The data from the airbag control module of Matagi’s vehicle was downloaded as part of the investigator. It indicated “prior to the collision the defendant was traveling at 85 miles per hour, the accelerator pedal was at 93% and the engine throttle was at 99%.” The speed limit on Morgan Avenue at the location of the collision is 30 miles per hour.

    When questioned by investigators, Matagi said he did not remember much after the collision at 13th and Morgan. In an apology letter, the complaint says the defendant wrote the following:

    “I had a gun and some marijuana in the car with no license and I was scared to go to jail and be stranded in Milwaukee so I sped up.”

    Matagi is due back in court on May 7. He faces charges in a separate case out of La Crosse County -- accused in an armed robbery the day before.