Damned if you do – Oklahoma Police Lt. Facing Homicide Charge for Stopping Active Shooter

From Blue Lives Matter – Some absolutely mindbogglingly confounding insanity. Police Lt. John Mitchell of Blackwell PD in Oklahoma is under indictment for homicide.

The Lt’s crime?

Stopping one Micheal Ann Godsey, a 34 year old woman who had begun shooting at her mother, another citizen, and police. The incident began at around 3 a.m. when police were notified of shots being fired.

Mitchell was involved in that gun battle and ended up exchanging about 60 rounds with Godsey before she was shot and killed. Godsey had been reported in several locations firing wildly from her pickup truck. It’s that 60 rounds that apparently has Mitchell in trouble…

On Nov. 21, a state grand jury determined that Lt. Mitchell engaged in “imminently dangerous conduct” towards Godsey without excusable or justifiable cause by firing approximately 60 rounds during the gun battle, The Oklahoman reported.

The lieutenant had completed active shooter response training shortly before the fatal altercation, and that an independent internal affairs committee had cleared him of any wrongdoing. During the gunfight Mitchell managed to pull in behind the active shooter’s vehicle. He took his patrol rifle, an AR-15, and he started shooting through the front windshield at Godsey. Godsey jerked the wheel and abruptly turned and stopped near Doolin Avenue and 13th Avenue in town. Mitchell and another officer got out of their vehicle to continue containing Godsey and prevent her from reengaging and continuing the shooting, he and another officer fired additional rounds at the suspect’s pickup.

60 Rounds

Was 60 rounds excessive? Is it excessive and does it constitute a homicide despite Godsey being actively shooting at officers and citizens?

The jury seems to think so. I don’t have dash or body cam footage to see the incident in any manner of perspective but 60 rounds in a rolling shootout, on the surface, doesn’t seem excessive. If 50 of those rounds got dumped into Godsey’s body at the end or footage showed Lt. Mitchell executing Godsey in some manner, but those aren’t the charges.

The charge is 2nd degree homicide due to “imminently dangerous conduct”, the dangerous conduct of shooting back at someone shooting at you effectively and shooting at the town you serve. Perhaps Lt. Mitchell did do something eminently reckless, I cannot say he did not. But from the structure of things at the moment this appears to be a case of people having a magic round count in their head of where things turn from ‘reasonable’ to ‘excessive’ and that just isn’t how these situations work.

Five rounds can be excessive and earn you a justifiable murder charge under the proper circumstances and one hundred twenty five rounds might not be enough to save lives under another. We wonder why the police don’t want to be the police anymore. We wonder why cops use too little force and people die and then too much and get paranoid and trigger happy and more people die. We publicize and vilify and prove over and over, at least on a public perception scale cops can only do wrong. They’re too slow and too aggressive and then not aggressive enough and not solving problems for the community.

We, as a nation, have turned that job into an ultimately thankless one I think. We can delineate what a good cop and bad cop are, instead everything they do is wrong.

Public awareness of perceptions

If an officer responding to a call of active shooter is in a courtroom over use of force (and they should be held to a higher standard than the general public, I agree) then what if ‘you’ had used 60 rounds?

A popular phrase I’ve heard a couple times at this point, “The line in the news between hero and villain starts around the first magazine change.”

You shouldn’t hedge your actions against your day in court if it is going to cost your life. But you do need to be aware of them and make the best decisions you can at every moment of the situation to mitigate the appearance of wrong doing. It might not work, like in the Lt.’s case here. But such is life.

Keith Finch
Keith is the former Editor-in-Chief of GAT Marketing Agency, Inc. He got told there was a mountain of other things that needed doing, so he does those now and writes here when he can. editor@gatdaily.com A USMC Infantry Veteran and Small Arms and Artillery Technician, Keith covers the evolving training and technology from across the shooting industry. Teaching since 2009, he covers local concealed carry courses, intermediate and advanced rifle courses, handgun, red dot handgun, bullpups, AKs, and home defense courses for civilians, military client requests, and law enforcement client requests.