By Steve Pomper
We promised we’d be back with additional coverage from Oklahoma of the long-awaited resolution to the ordeal Blackwell Police Department Lt. John Mitchell has been suffering since May 2019—for doing his job. We’ve been covering this good man’s struggles since December 2019 and have provided updates throughout.
On August 12th, 2021, Kay County District Court Judge Lee Turner finally ended this injustice when he issued an Order Sustaining Defendant’s Motion to Quash manslaughter charges brought against Lt. Mitchell by predatory anti-cop prosecutor DA Jason Hicks.
We are elated with the outcome, in which Judge Turner encapsulates why DA Hicks should never have filed charges (including for the initial nonsensical charge of murder). Reading through the Order illuminates the irrational behavior of DA Jason Hicks. His fanatical pursuit of Lt. Mitchell seems almost psychotic.
Lt. Mitchell’s attorney, Gary James, whom we congratulate for his hard-fought victory, premised his Motion to Quash on six salient points:
- Insufficient evidence of excessive force.
- No evidence Mitchell killed the suspect.
- Was a justifiable homicide.
- Was an excusable homicide.
- The state had no probable cause to charge Mitchell.
- Mitchell was denied some rights during the preliminary hearing.
DA Hicks rebutted the Motion with four amorphous objections, which seem the court equivalent of the playground taunt, “Oh, yeah!” It seems Hicks also tried to argue the video evidence was not subject to cross-examination. The ruling called that “absurd.” (34)
- Preliminary hearing standard.
- Mitchell used excessive force.
- Mitchell broke the law.
- Mitchell killed the suspect.
Judge Turner sustained the Motion to Quash based on several aspects of solid evidence that proved the elements of justifiable homicide.
Let’s begin at the end because the beginning should have been the end. It involved cops doing what cops do, stopping dangerous criminals from hurting and killing people. The middle (court) part involved an electron microscope examination of every single, isolated move each person, especially the cops, made during the mobile active shooter incident.
The Order to Quash concludes: “Michael Godsey’s attempt to ram her mother’s vehicle before driving off starting the pursuit evinces the actions of a person who is a threat to officers and others as long as she was armed and not in custody.” Pretty obvious, right? And that’s not nearly all of what happened.
Initially, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI), staffed by investigators who are experienced and trained to know what the officer’s policies, procedures, and training were, determined the police acted properly.
But for DA Hicks, who brought charges against Lt. Mitchell some seven months after OSBI’s initial investigation cleared him, the lieutenant and his family could have resumed their lives, with the heartfelt thanks of their community.
Instead, DA Hicks seemed to have launched a personal vendetta against this brave police officer who risked his life for his fellow Oklahomans. When all is distilled, DA Hicks seems exclusively perturbed by the number of shots Lt. Mitchell fired throughout the mobile active shooter incident. Some 60 rounds. In the end, it was the precise number needed to end the shooter’s rampage.
Fortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court isn’t similarly squeamish about such irrelevant incidentals. “Applying the United States Supreme Court ruling in Plumhoff, if Lt. Mitchell was justified in initially firing at the point he did on Doolin Ave. then he was justified in continued firing after the turn on 13th Street since Ms. Godsey was still a violent felon who was still in possession of a semiautomatic handgun and was a threat to officers as long as she was in possession of the handgun and not in custody.”
See? SCOTUS gets it.
Judge Turner slapped DA Hicks’ ego down hard in the Order:
“Therefore, the premise that Michael Godsey (MG), suffering from mental illness during the entire events on May 20, 2019, was surrendering to police authority that MG by turning on her left turn signal to turn southbound on 13th Street and by slowing then stopping is not only speculative but highly unlikely and not probable to believe that MG suddenly became lucid and rational thought process had returned to her immediately prior to her turning onto 13th St. especially when considering the extent of the delusional break Ms. Godsey was suffering from was clearly established from testimony of witnesses and especially from the audio portion of the Denton Video.” What more does any good prosecutor need to hear? Oh, wait….
Documents and evidence reviewed:
- Officers’ testimony
- Video (audio) recordings of incident
- M.E.’s report
- Preliminary Hearing Transcripts
- Defendant and State’s briefs
“Conclusions of Law:”
- Tennessee v. Garner
- Graham v. Conner
- Plumhoff vs. Rickard
- Morales v. City of Oklahoma City
- City of Owasso v. Fraternal Order of Police
- State v. Cooper
- Moss v. Okla. Dept. of Corrections
- State v. Gilchrist
- The various legislative codes regarding Oklahoma Crimes and Punishment.
To put the minutia of the Order into expository prose would be daunting for me, but more importantly, boring for you. The parenthetical numbers distributed throughout the list reference the page of the Order for the information cited. Here’s a more easily digestible chronological list of Judge Turner’s “Finding of Facts:”
- Godsey suffered from mental illness. Suffered a “delusional break.” (5)
- Godsey’s mother had called 911 about her erratic behavior in the past.
- Godsey had access to a gun, according to her husband.
- Godsey struck the rear of a man’s car. When the man stopped his car, she rammed him again. (6)
- Godsey then drove up next to the man’s car, told him there’s no damage, and then fired two shots at him. (7)
- One round disabled the man’s car. Evidence determined she was shooting at the driver.
- Godsey shot another car belonging to a woman. Police observed an elongated bullet hole in her car’s hood.
- Cpl. Keith Denton, looked at Godsey’s pickup truck and saw “a hand with a black semiautomatic handgun come out of the driver’s door then across the windshield…” (9)
- Godsey pointed the gun at Cpl. Denton.
- The court found police collected and maintained evidence properly. (10)
- A victim told Cpl. Denton Godsey “was going to shoot me earlier.”
- Godsey kept telling Cpl. Denton to put his gun down and stand where she could see him while he was trying to get a victim to get to safety.
- Godsey yelled she would not go to jail. (12)
- Cpl. Denton and Godsey exchange gunfire as Godsey drives off.
- Cpl. Denton said he didn’t draw his gun until one of Godsey’s rounds struck a victim’s car.
- Godsey fired two more rounds as she drove off.
- Cpl. Denton said he knew those rounds struck the back of his patrol car.
- Lt. Mitchell joins the pursuit.
- Cpl. Denton radioed Lt. Mitchell, he’d exchanged gunfire with Godsey.
- Cpl. Denton testified Godsey shot at him while they were driving, so he radioed other officers she was still shooting (16)
- Four more gunshots from Godsey.
- Lt. Mitchell passes Cpl. Denton and takes over the pursuit. (17)
- More gunshots
- Denton testified Godsey was a danger to the public, a fleeing felon. (18)
- Denton stopped her vehicle but did not put the truck in park.
- Cpl. Denton got out, said he thought it might be the final gun battle.
- Cpl. Denton considered Godsey could put the truck in reverse, back into officers, exit the truck shooting, or drive away. At all times, Godsey possessed two deadly weapons.
- Cpl. Denton testified Lt. Mitchell had more active shooter training. Mitchell was also a qualified active shooter trainer (ALERRT).
- Cpl. Denton defers to the video over his testimony, citing the time distortion that can occur under extreme stress like during a gunfight. (19)
- Lt. Mitchell fires15 shots.
- More shots fired (21)
- Lt. Mitchell asks radio to call for county help (from the sheriff’s office).
- Report broadcasted of officer exchanging shots with Godsey.
- Lt. Mitchell announces I have a long gun (AR-15). (22)
- Seven shots fired.
- Lt. Mitchell reports shots fired, and he returned fire but didn’t know if his rounds hit.
- Lt. Mitchell shoots out his own patrol car windshield (to reduce distortion and deflection), then fires four shots. (23)
- Godsey’s vehicle continues to move. She has not stopped.
- Lt. Mitchell fires as he moves to the front of his vehicle.
- Lt. Mitchell fires 15 more shots until Godsey’s truck finally stops moving.
- Lt. Mitchell yells “ceasefire.” (24)
- The shooting stops (the suspect stop, so the shooting stops).
- Blackwell Police Chief Dewayne Wood testified he believes Mitchell acted properly. Wood also kept Lt. Mitchell in the department as the Communications Unit commander.
DA Hicks argued the number of shots Lt. Mitchell fired was excessive. However, SCOTUS ruled in Plumhoff vs. Rickard, “It stands to reason that, if police officers are justified in firing at a suspect to end a severe threat to public safety, the officers need not stop shooting until the threat has ended.” The Court described precisely what happened here.
Additional facts established:
- “No witness testified regarding any policy or guideline that Lt. Mitchell violated any policy or guideline that was not in place that would have resulted in a violation of state law if it had been in place.”
- “Denton was not trained nor qualified to be able to testify that LT. Mitchell’s use of deadly force was excessive.” (34)
- “Therefore, in this instant case, the Court finds that the basis in Defendant’s motion to Quash are factually and legally valid and the Magistrate should have applied the law as set out in (citation).”
The truly frightening part of this legal malpractice, for any cop, is how easy it would be for an activist, social justice judge to obfuscate with legal minutia and deny such an Order. If a prosecutor can do it, so can a judge. Thankfully, that did not happen here.
In reading this Order, it seems the judge would have denied the Motion for most of the points the defendant (Mitchell) put forth. And we’re talking about this happening not in cobalt blue California or Illinois but in the deep red state of Oklahoma.
DA Hicks reportedly has not ruled out appealing this Order. Can any inflated ego sustain itself through even more defeats? Being a vigorous advocate for your position is one thing. But vigorously advocating the unreasonable is absurd—and unethical.
If the criminal justice system can persecute, with bogus charges and interminable delays, an excellent law enforcement officer like Lt. John Mitchell for doing his job so bravely, in Oklahoma, no place in America is guaranteed safe for cops.
The only way to fight this effectively is to get involved in pro-rule of law politics, and vote these cultural revolutionaries attempting to erase traditional America out of office.