BLACKWELL, OK- Law Enforcement Today has been following a situation for you regarding a police officer that seems more like a poorly written fictional story than an actual event happening to one of our nation’s officers.
This week, while we were able to celebrate a small victory for him, we also have a long way to go before we can break open the champagne.
John Mitchell, a Lieutenant with the Blackwell Police Department, went to his preliminary hearing this week. The charge, in case you haven’t seen it yet, was second-degree murder, where he was facing ten years in prison.
The crime he committed? Stopping an active shooter who was driving around the city shooting at people and cars.
Lt Mitchell was indicted in November of 2019 for a May 20th incident.
Wednesday, Judge Nikki Leach ruled that there was sufficient evidence in the case to go to trial for a lesser charge (the small victory) of manslaughter.
Full details for the incident can be found at the end of this article, but for now, here’s a recap:
A suspect in a white truck (later identified as Michael Godsey, which is pronounced “Michelle”) shot at multiple people prior to Lt Mitchell arriving- one being her mother, another being a man sitting in his car, and another being Blackwell Police Officer Keith Denton. Godsey led the police, including Lt Mitchell, on a pursuit, during which she continued shooting at Denton and Mitchell.
Denton and Mitchell both shot at Godsey at multiple points during the incident, and she eventually was pronounced dead.
— National Police Association (@NatPoliceAssoc) January 3, 2020
The District Attorney for the case, Jason Hicks, is doing everything he can to get an officer put in prison for potentially saving several lives by ending the threat.
He made comments to the media that took what witnesses testified out of context, which is nothing new. But it is, nevertheless, incredibly infuriating.
For example, Denton testified on Tuesday. Hicks asked Denton if he thought that it would have been reasonable for no more shots to be fired at a certain point, to which Denton said, “Yes.”
Hicks said to reporters:
“You heard Denton say that he did not feel it was necessary to open fire after the truck stopped (emphasis added).”
That’s a misquote. A carefully placed misquote. “Reasonable” and “necessary” have two very different meanings. They’re not interchangeable.
Using them at the times Hicks did shows that he is obviously trying to spin up readers. He wants to cause problems. He wants people to be pissed off and riot when Lt Mitchell is acquitted.
Hicks also argued during the preliminary hearing that when Godsey’s vehicle stopped, that was her “submitting” to law enforcement.
#BREAKING: Today a Noble County judge found probable cause for Blackwell Police Officer Lt. John Mitchell to face manslaughter charges for his roll in an officer involved shooting back in May. His attorney says they didn't think this case would get this far. @kfor pic.twitter.com/QXAJTajVcU
— Chase Horn (@ChaseHorn) February 19, 2020
Through this whole horrid ordeal, the Blackwell Police Department and the Oklahoma Fraternal Order of Police have been supportive of Lt Mitchell and his family.
The courtroom was filled with supporters for Mitchell this week, and many have posted their support on social media.
Oklahoma FOP President Jason Smith has been vocal on Mitchell’s behalf. Following the preliminary trial this week, he said:
“We’ve been excited from the get-go to have the evidence in this case brought out to the public, that’s happening now. The facts of the case haven’t changed since May 20th. It’s a horrible situation but the facts of the case, we believe exonerate Lt. Mitchell.”
Smith also said:
“The outcome of this case could determine how law enforcement is handled in the state of Oklahoma. It couldn’t be more important to us, and we want to support our brother that we believe had to do a bad thing. He had to do a horrible thing, but he had to do it to save lives.”
Mitchell’s attorney, Gary James, said:
“Officer Denton engaged in shots with Godsey on Main Street. The state has not called Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation agents to the stand. Denton testified that Godsey was a violent fleeing felon and for the state to say she had submitted to law enforcement is almost laughable.
Let’s go back to when Denton showed up to the house and him telling the court [that] he should have put six rounds in the windshield. Godsey never submitted.”
“Where would we be if she had went on to shoot another vehicle head on?”
That’s what I would like to know.
There are reasonableness standards set in this great nation for law enforcement use of force for a reason.
This is what the responding officers knew: A suspect in a white truck had fired at people multiple times in multiple locations and was now firing at police. The end.
As far as they knew, she had succeeded at murdering her targets or other people and was continuing on to do more damage.
As far as they knew, the suspect was trying to kill the pursuing police (which makes sense, seeing as how she shot at them multiple times during the pursuit, why else would she be firing at them?).
So, reasonably, an officer would be justified in (and, actually, expected to) end the threat any way he can, including shooting and killing her.
If Godsey had been a better shot and had actually hit her mother or the other citizen or one of the officers or another random bystander, then what?
I’ll tell you what- then Lt Mitchell would be getting the praise he deserves.
Just because Godsey wasn’t successful in killing or at least hitting someone that night does not mean that she wouldn’t have if the officers would have handled the situation differently.
Mitchell’s arraignment hearing is scheduled for March 18 in Kay County before Judge Lee Turner.
Jason Smith posted a long and heartfelt message on Facebook following the preliminary hearing. In part, it read:
“I sat down yesterday to type a post several times. Each time, I would get a few words in and stop from a mix of broken heart and rage.
I have served this justice system, allegedly the greatest the world has ever seen, for 24 years. I have worked countless cases on the premise that before a person can be charged for a crime, there must be probable cause that first a crime was committed and second, committed by the person to be charged with that crime.
It is supposed to be the safe guard from the government affecting the most cherished of rights to freedom our founding fathers set forth.
“I went into this hearing…optimistic that the lack of evidence that a crime was even committed would end this nightmare for John, his family and every single peace officer in the state of Oklahoma.
Just before engaging in the gunfight, John was told on the radio that officers were actively exchanging gunfire with the suspect; was it violent? Yes! The use of deadly force is violent every single time, this is not a movie.
This is a new standard of justice that is foreign to what I have been involved in for over two decades. I have taken countless cases to DA’s and judges alike that have told me that Probable Cause was not there yet and to keep investigating.
This new form of justice now, apparently just for cops, is let’s throw a pile of potatoes on the wall and see what sticks and what is left will determine the future of the officer’s life.
This district attorney knows without a doubt this case will not lead to a conviction for ANY crime.
But we are going to continue this farce at the deep cost to John, his family, and every single peace officer who go to work every day and sacrifice their lives to defend and protect society. As a group, peace officers are the most resilient adaptable vocation in the country. We have changed with society’s expectations for us many times over the course of our careers.
According to this DA, another adjustment needs to be made that is contrary to established case law through the united states supreme court. It seems that the prosecution position is that it is not enough that a suspect is actively shooting at you, they must hit you before being able to return fire.
This seems unreal to me; it seems to be an impossible standard. I pray the justice system works this out and corrects the severe injustice that has occurred so far.
I will continue to put on my gun and badge every day and I will continue to put my life on the line every single day in defense of people I may not even know.
I work alongside the bravest and most resilient heroes this country has ever produced, we will continue to serve and protect on the thin blue line.
Brothers and sisters, this is truly a dark and uncertain time in our chosen profession. But we are strong, we are resilient and we will overcome. God has called each of us to this profession and it is through Him we will continue to answer that call.
To John and your family, we have never stood as firm behind you as we are today. This court ruling does not sway our support and resilience in your defense of this sham of a charge. For us, each day moves forward and we continue on with our lives while this case has put yours at a standstill. We see you brother; we are with you and will continue to hold you up.
“This would be the first time in American history that a police officer, or anybody, was charged with the crime of murder for shooting at an active shooter”-OK FOP President Jason Smith on the murder indictment of Blackwell Officer John Mitchell @KTULNews pic.twitter.com/l3aMcaGhhs
— Burt Mummolo (@MummoloNews) November 25, 2019
John Mitchell, you are my hero! I would serve next to you anytime, anywhere, and in any situation and my family would rejoice because they know that if there was any possibility you would get me home safe. #justiceforjohn #fopstrong”
The previous story written on LET shows the incredible bias the media has displayed throughout this incident, like most involving law enforcement.
Read it for full details on the incident and more here.
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