By Sandy Malone and Holly Matkin
Oklahoma City, OK – A grand jury indicted a Blackwell police lieutenant for murder for killing an active shooter, and the state’s police union is questioning why the district attorney held back evidence from the indictment.
Oklahoma Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) President Jason Smith told Blue Lives Matter that District Attorney Jason Hicks failed to mention the suspect’s bullet holes in the police car in his indictment of Blackwell Police Lieutenant John Mitchell.
“I’ve yet to see in American history when an active shooter was taken out by a police officer or civilian who was then charged with murder – murder isn’t defined by that in America,” Smith said.
The FOP president, who has been in law enforcement for 23 years, said that if he had presented evidence like what’s shown in the indictment when he was an officer, the district attorney would not have brought charges.
He told Blue Lives Matter that Lt. Mitchell is a popular and well-respected member of his small community who coaches several football teams, serves on the board of the chamber, and is a member of his local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) post.
Smith called Lt. Mitchell the perfect example of a “good lawman,” but instead of holding him up as deserving of praise, they’re trying to make a bad example out of him.
“Instead of the heroism award he should have gotten for putting his life between the public and an active shooter, Lt. Mitchell received an indictment for murder,” he said, sounding disgusted.
The incident that led to the officer-involved shooting began at approximately 3 a.m. on May 20, when Blackwell police received reports that someone was firing a gun in the 1300-block of South Main, KFOR reported.
At least one of the rounds had struck a vehicle.
While officers responded to the scene, the dispatch center received additional calls that someone in a white pickup was firing rounds at several locations around Blackwell.
The suspect, later identified as 34-year-old Michael Ann Godsey, ultimately opened fire on police as they pursued her through the town, The Oklahoman reported.
"She shot at the police twice. She has shot at her mother twice. She has shot at a private citizen. We know she fired other rounds around town,” Officer Mitchell’s attorney, Gary James, told the paper.
Blackwell Police Lieutenant John Mitchell managed to pull in behind the active shooter’s vehicle.
"He took his AR-15 and he started shooting through the front windshield at her,” James told The Oklahoman.
Godsey jerked the wheel and abruptly turned at stopped near Doolin Avenue and 13th Avenue, KFOR reported.
Lt. Mitchell and another officer fired additional rounds at the suspect’s pickup.
They discovered the shooter dead in the driver’s seat a short while later.
One of the officers suffered a minor injury during the shootout, according to the Associated Press.
James said that Lt. Mitchell, who had recently completed active shooter response training, did what he had to do to stop a “violent, fleeing felon,” The Oklahoman reported.
And independent internal affairs committee and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation quickly cleared Lt. Mitchell and the other officers present of any wrongdoing in the officer-involved shooting.
The union president complained that the district attorney, however, wasn’t as quick to make up his mind and waited seven months before he presented evidence to a grand jury.
“A 15-man department has been minus three officers for months because the DA waited seven months while he tried to decide what he wanted to do,” Smith ranted. “He left out so much key evidence out of the indictment and I believe that was because he wanted to get that indictment.”
He also expressed frustration with mainstream media who have only reported on what was in the indictment.
“They’re trying to spin it – Lt. Mitchell didn’t do what he did to grandstand and get into a shootout,” Smith told Blue Lives Matter. “He did it to protect his fellow officers. He put his body and his car between the shooter and other officers and the public.”
The FOP leader told Blue Lives Matter that Hicks was just another example of a district attorney trying to make a name for himself.
“They’re not holding officers accountable to the law – they’re holding them above the law,” Smith said. “It’s not fair to the men and women who serve and it’s not fair to the public either. Some DAs are taking that blindfold off of Lady Justice and tipping the scales to an unreasonable nature and it’s costing officers their lives.”
He pointed to Tennessee vs. Garner, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled law enforcement officers could use deadly force if "the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others."
“I don’t know how much more of a continuing threat you can be than shooting all over town and terrorizing this small community… the fact that she died with a gun in her hand should be evidence enough to clear the officers involved,” Smith said.
“The indictment indicates that Lt. Mitchell fired 60 rounds – what it doesn’t say is that those rounds were not getting on target for whatever reason… as long as [the gunman is] a continuing threat to the public, the officer has an obligation to stop that threat,” he said.
“Lt. Mitchell was doing his job and certainly that wasn’t what he went on duty to do that day,” Smith told Blue Lives Matter. “This picture of him that’s been painted by this DA by leaving out key evidence to the grand jury is in my opinion criminal… it’s certainly tilting the justice system in the wrong way.”
Fans of Lt. Mitchell in his community have set up pages on social media to show their support.
A fundraiser initially set up on GoFundMe was taken down by the fundraising company in accordance with their policy of not permitting fundraising for individuals who are facing “serious criminal charges.”
The FOP re-established the fundraiser with a link on PayPal and are also selling shirts and stickers to show support for Lt. Mitchell as he faces charges for protecting their community.