By Steve Pomper
It’s hard to believe, but the NPA began covering Blackwell Police Department Lt. John Mitchell’s hellish odyssey in early December 2019. What’s more difficult to believe is the reporting stemmed from an incident that occurred in May 2019. But the hardest thing to believe is nearly two years later, in April 2021, Lt. Mitchell is still waiting for the judge to issue a final ruling regarding whether Lt. Mitchell will be tried for what has been whittled down from murder to a manslaughter charge.
The original incident, as described here and in the many follow-ups the NPA has done, involved Lt. Mitchell essentially responding to an active shooter incident. A suspect was driving around town, shooting a gun out the window of her vehicle.
She’d already shot at several targets, including random vehicles, houses and other buildings, her mother, a police officer, and who knows who or what else? When Lt. Mitchell and other officers located the suspect, they ordered her to drop her weapon and surrender. The suspect refused, still held the gun, and continued to drive. Officers then engaged the mobile active shooter, shooting and killing the suspect, and stopping the rampage.
Since then, Lt. Mitchell, his family, co-workers, and friends have been on an infernal rollercoaster where the operator won’t stop it to let them off. Two Christmases, Easters, 4ths of July, birthdays, anniversaries, and other holidays and celebrations (not to mention dealing with the Covid) have passed while Lt. Mitchell awaits a decision from the court.
During this time, his police chief gave him a position of responsibility in his department, he’s continued to coach youth sports, and he’s even won awards for exemplary achievement while serving this “virtual prison sentence.”
The various human beings involved in all the dubious charging and responsible for the interminable delays should, I know it sounds cliché, be ashamed of themselves. But this is what good cops get these days, right? Cops deserve no respect from the criminal justice system, and that’s exactly what Lt. Mitchell has received. There is no reason this decision shouldn’t have been made long ago and certainly by now. No new evidence, no new testimony, no new information has been cited as reasons for the delay. Oh, I know… bet they blame the Covid.
Lt. Mitchell, through it all, has remained optimistic and his attitude and continued commitment to the people of his community, Oklahoma, and America is inspiring. He told me recently he has reason to hope a decision will be announced soon and, of course, hopes it works out in his favor. I hope he is right because he’s heard this before.