Kay County, OK – The district judge on Thursday dismissed the murder indictment against Blackwell Police Lieutenant John Mitchell for killing an active shooter almost two years ago and said the woman’s death had been “justifiable homicide.”
District Court Judge Lee Turner quashed the indictment against Lt. Mitchell for the murder or manslaughter of 34-year-old Michael Ann Godsey on Aug. 12 in an order obtained by The Police Tribune.
Turner said in his ruling that criminal charges can only be brought against an officer when the use of physical force exceeded the degree of physical force permitted by law, or when the officer’s actions violated department policy.
The judge’s order said the district attorney had failed to “establish a prima facia showing that the law enforcement officer’s use of force was excessive.”
Turner said in his ruling that Godsey had proven that she was a threat to officers and the general public as long as she was armed and not in custody.
The district attorney’s indictment had pointed to the number of shots fired by Lt. Mitchell as excessive, but the judge did not agree.
“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 fleeing 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 was not in custody,” Turner wrote.
The judge said in the order dismissing the indictment against the lieutenant that the active shooter never gave any indicated she intended to surrender.
Turner said he agreed, “based on the totality of the circumstances,” that Lt. Mitchell’s “actions in shooting Ms. Godsey do amount to justifiable homicide pursuant to holdings of the United States Supreme Court cases, Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals cases and other federal cases” that were cited in the defense attorney’s motion to have the charges dismissed.
The incident that led to the officer-involved shooting began at approximately 3 a.m. on May 20, 2019, when Blackwell police received reports that someone was firing a gun in the 1300-block of South Main, KFOR reported.
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.
Godsey ultimately opened fire on the police officer who located her in the pickup truck in the driveway of her mother’s home.
She was known to police and her mother had been in contact with officers for days prior to her daughter’s shooting spree which began when she fired a handgun at her mother, the judge’s order said.
Godsey led officers on a chase across town while shooting at police vehicles and officers returned fire.
Her rampage continued until Lt. Blackwell, who had recently completed active shooter training, fatally shot her inside the pickup truck when the vehicle stopped on the side of the roadway.
An 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.
Then seven months after the incident, the district attorney presented evidence to a grand jury and secured an indictment against Lt. Mitchell for second-degree murder or first-degree manslaughter.
Noble County Associate District Judge Nikki Leach, acting as magistrate at the preliminary hearing, found prosecutors did not have probably cause to charge Lt. Mitchell with murder, but allowed the manslaughter charges to go forward.
Local law enforcement told The Police Tribune at the time that they were shocked by the indictment of Lt. 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,” Oklahoma Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) President Jason Smith said.
Smith told The Police Tribune at the time that District Attorney Jason Hicks had failed to tell the grand jury about the suspect’s bullet holes in the police car in his indictment.
The union president 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 told The Police Tribune, sounding disgusted.
The lieutenant’s attorney, Gary James, filed a motion with the court to quash the indictment after the preliminary hearing but the case remained in limbo for almost two years because of delays that resulted from courthouse closures.
The Police Tribune reached out to James for comment after the judge’s ruling was released but had not heard back at publication time.