Cop Who Stopped Active Shooter Still in Battling DA in Court

Cop Who Stopped Active Shooter Still in Battling DA in Court

By Steve Pomper  

It’s been 15 months since a cop in Blackwell, Oklahoma stopped an active shooter and yet another follow-up is necessary to encourage continuing support for Blackwell Police Department (BPD) Lt. John Mitchell. So, here are, while not a detailed analysis, some observations of the latest goings-on, from my view in the cheap seats.

In May 2019, Lt. Mitchell, along with another BPD officer, fired their weapons, shooting and killing—stopping—armed suspect Michael Godsey.

Godsey had been driving through town in her pickup truck, firing a gun out the window. She’d already fired at officers at least twice, shot at her mother, shot at another civilian, and fired other shots at unknown objects, cars, and possibly at buildings and other people.

Lt. Mitchell joined in the pursuit, worked his way in behind the suspect’s vehicle and, while driving, fired some 60 rounds at it from his AR-15 rifle through his patrol vehicle windshield. He fired until he stopped the threat.

Lt. Mitchell, through his attorney, Gary James, had submitted a motion to quash the manslaughter charges. One contention Mr. James, made was the M.E. could not determine which officer fired the fatal shot. Therefore, Lt. Mitchell could not be charged with manslaughter because he may not have fired the, as District Attorney Jason Hicks called it, “kill shot.”

Despite the argument about this, albeit significant, technicality, Lt. Mitchell maintains he acted lawfully, within the policies and procedures of the BPD, and the laws of the State of Oklahoma, and of the United States. Remember, as I wrote in a previous article, “An independent investigative agency, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) would initially clear Lt. Mitchell of any wrongdoing, and then hand the case to the county DA.”

The assigned DA recused himself and handed the case over to DA Hicks. The rest, as they say, is history, or more accurately, has been a living hell for Lt. Mitchell and his family.

In early August, Lt. Mitchell submitted a motion to quash the manslaughter charges. One reason was the medical examiner could not determine which of the two officers’ rounds killed the suspect. The judge didn’t rule on the motion because he wanted to hear more from the parties about the ballistics.

DA Hicks has submitted a Response to Defendant’s Motion to Quash (RDMQ).

I read nothing new regarding the ballistics. The fact still remains no one knows which officer fired the fatal shot. However, DA Hicks charged Lt. Mitchell, first with murder, now with manslaughter, but did not charge the other officer whose bullet may have killed the suspect. This is significant, because of the amorphous arguments DA Hicks offers to the court.

In the RDMQ, DA Hicks makes some curious arguments. First, he says Lt. Mitchell “failed to establish ‘beyond the face of the indictment or information that there is insufficient evidence to prove any one of the necessary elements for the offense for which’ he is charged.’” Doesn’t this require Lt. Mitchell to prove a negative?

DA Hicks argues that though the “kill shot” cannot be determined, Lt. Mitchell “failed to establish that this particular element cannot be satisfied.”

Excuse me? Lt. Mitchell submits the M.E. cannot determine which officers’ bullet killed the suspect. That whose shot killed the suspect is not known is a fact.

DA Hicks argues it doesn’t matter whose shot killed the suspect because both officers are “criminally liable.” He seems to be introducing some version of the “felony murder (manslaughter) rule.”

But, since only one officer was criminally charged, how can Lt. Mitchell be criminally liable, if the other officer (co-conspirator/accomplice) is not liable? Where is the co-conspirator or accomplice necessary for that rule to apply?

Aside from that, the “kill shot” is just one technical element of the case. We should keep in mind, no crime occurred. It is not a crime for a police officer to stop an active shooter.

From the RDMQ, Lt. Mitchell said, “Hey, I put 60 rounds in that dude, hopefully she is down.”

DA Hicks seems hung up on the number of shots Lt. Mitchell fired during the incident, insinuating the officer was out of control. I maintain he fired the precise number of shots necessary to stop the threat. Lt. Mitchell was not out of control.

In fact, according to the DA’s RDMQ, Hicks includes that Lt. Mitchell orders the other officer to “cease fire, she may be down.” This shows situational awareness and control.

There is more evidence of Lt. Mitchell’s being in control when you consider an officer shooting from a moving car at a suspect who is also shooting from a moving car. Why so many rounds? Well, there is the deflection of the bullets as they passed through not only Lt. Mitchell’s windshield but also when passing through obstructions in the suspect’s vehicle. Oh, and there’s the fact the suspect refused to surrender, drop her weapon, or stop her vehicle.

Every moment the suspect refused to surrender, was still armed, and continued to drive was another moment where the police and community were at risk of grievous harm or death.

DA Hicks contends, “It’s clear that the statements made by D Mitchell at the scene [above], just after shooting that he believed he was responsible for the death of Michael Godsey.”

Isn’t DA Hicks just making stuff up? Lt. Mitchell’s statement makes no such admission that he was responsible for the active shooter’s death. He may have been, or the other officer may have been. In either case, it is not a crime to shoot an armed criminal, who is refusing to surrender, won’t drop her firearm, and is still a lethal threat to the community.

Another curious aspect of DA Hicks’ arguments is when he asserts not only that Lt. Mitchell “believed he was responsible for the death of…” but also “appears to make the argument that Officer Denton was responsible for the death of Michael Godsey.”

Which is it? Does Lt. Mitchell believe one of his rounds killed the suspect, or does he argue one of the other officer’s rounds killed her? Arguing both would be weird, right?

I hate to use clichés (but here’s a couple) but, bottom line, on that fateful morning—well over a year ago, Lt. Mitchell heard a dispatched call of a suspect driving a vehicle through his community, shooting a weapon out the window. She’d already shot a people, including the police.

Lt. Mitchell volunteered for the call, raced toward the danger, put his life in jeopardy, and took the actions necessary to protect his community. Along with a subordinate officer, he stopped the threat—he did his job. Why the DA seems to have it out for this one police lieutenant remains in the realm of speculation.

Still, the stretches, leaps, and contortions DA Hicks makes in his response to the motion indicate a feeble argument. Hopefully, the court will recognize the weak argument, too.

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