A Franklin County, OH grand jury has indicted former Columbus police officer Andrew Mitchell on charges of murder and manslaughter in the August shooting death of Donna Dalton.
Mitchell, 55, was working undercover in plain clothes for the Columbus Police Vice Squad when he allegedly attempted to detain Dalton, 23, on prostitution charges. Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien said that Dalton didn't believe Mitchell was a police officer and stabbed him in the hand while the two were in his unmarked vehicle. The officer then fired several shots at her hitting her in the abdomen, leg, and chest.
O'Brien said that Mitchell was not justified in continuing to fire at Dalton (who is also known by her married name, Castleberry) because "the threat against him had ceased."
In March, Mitchell, a 30-year-veteran of the Columbus Police Department, was indicted on unrelated federal charges of kidnapping and raping two women "under the guise of an arrest and forcing them to engage in sex for their freedom." The U.S. Attorney says that he picked up the women under the pretense of officially detaining them, then transported them to a different location where he demanded sex in exchange for releasing them.
He faces additional federal charges of witness tampering, making false statements, and obstruction of justice (for allegedly coercing and threatening individuals involved in the investigation), and deprivation of rights under the color of law.
Like Dalton, the two women he is accused of kidnapping were sex workers, a population that is vulnerable to abuses of power by the police.
"These officers who work in vice often believe they can act with impunity with respect to the people that they're arresting, and often that's the case," Andrea Ritchie, author of Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color and researcher at the Barnard Center For Research on Women explained to Refinery29. "Because when people do come forward to make complaints, those investigations are barely started, and if they are, they're never completed and often the complainant's 'credibility' becomes the issue."
Following Mitchell's federal indictments, The Appeal reported on more details of his abuse: In addition to his former job with the Columbus Police Department, Mitchell owns a number of rental properties and is accused of pressuring his tenants to trade sex for rent in his neglected and pest-ridden buildings.
After news of the federal indictments against Mitchell came to light, Columbus Interim Police Chief Tom Quinlan announced that he had disbanded the vice unit. Most vice operations had been frozen last year after Dalton's shooting and the botched arrest of adult film star Stormy Daniels. In a tweet, Columbus Police said that "vice-related crimes will be addressed using a community-centered approach."
Following Thursday’s indictment, Dalton's sister's Tiffany said she was happy Mitchell would face a trial, but that it wouldn’t bring her sister back.
“My sister would have rather gotten locked up than killed,” she told The Columbus Dispatch.