BLACKWELL, Okla. (KFOR) – Protesters took to the sidewalk next to Blackwell City Hall Thursday to silently protest the reassignment of Lt. John Mitchell at the Blackwell Police Department as he awaits trial on felony charges.
It’s been over one year now since dashcam video showed a Blackwell police officer involved in a shooting where a woman was killed. Now, the city manager decided to reassign him at the Police Department, but in a different role, and some residents said they aren’t too happy about it.
“I felt very good about putting him in that position,” said Janet Smith, Blackwell’s city manager.
“We poignantly asked them to reconsider,” said Stacy Bergman, the protest organizer.
Bergman added that it’s not about what took place last year when the shooting occurred, rather, just the city’s decision to reassign Mitchell.
“Even though we’re standing silently, we’re just basically stating that we’re not in agreeance (sic) with that,” Bergman said.
It all started in May 2019. Michael Godsey was accused of shooting a gun at a random car as well as another officer. Dash cam video showed the police chase that ensued, where Mitchell fired around 60 shots into Godsey’s truck and killed her.
Mitchell was later charged by a county district attorney with second-degree murder. That charge was later dropped in favor of first-degree manslaughter. Mitchell is awaiting trial at this time.
However, we learned that he’s back on the job, working full-time at the department in dispatch. The decision to bring him back was made by Smith.
“I felt that it was very important for me to fill a position and fill it with someone who had the skillset that was necessary,” Smith said.
“If Michael’s mom needs the police, and she calls up here during certain hours, the man who is accused of manslaughter against her daughter is going to answer the phone,” Bergman said.
Mitchell has been on paid administrative leave for around one year according to Smith. She said she reassigned him because she feels that taxpayer money is better used if he’s working.
“Whenever our officers are not at work and we’re still paying them, then we get into overtime hours and there’s a lot more expense that goes into it,” she said.
Others, like Bergman, are not convinced that’s the case.
”If it were my daughter who was in this situation, how would I feel about Mr. Mitchell working until he’s had his day in court,” Bergman said.
“At this point, I just think it’s a difference of opinion,” Smith said.
Mitchell is asking for permission to dismiss the case. A judge is set to rule on that July 14.