By Rashad Rolle
Tribune Staff Reporter
A Coroner’s Court jury unanimously concluded yesterday the 2010 police killing of Walden Mitchell, a former police officer, was a justified homicide.
Mitchell was killed on First Street off Coconut Grove on November 22, 2010 after receiving three gunshot wounds to his torso and buttocks. Jurors had the option of returning a finding of homicide, justified homicide or open verdict, with homicide requiring the highest standard of proof. They chose justified homicide, concluding that in the balance of probabilities, it was more likely than not that the force used against Mitchell was lawful.
The inquest took place before Deputy Coroner Kara Turnquest Deveaux. During her summation of the case, the coroner said there was some evidence Mitchell was seated on a motorcycle and was struck “almost from behind”. However, she noted that one of the officers who shot Mitchell, Officer Robinson, gave evidence that he was threatened by Mitchell and believed Mitchell was about to shoot.
Officers testified the killing was the culmination of a series of events. One officer, Officer Gaitor, said in the hours before the fatal shooting, intelligence led him and his partner to Kemp Road where they heard gunshots from Sutton Street. While responding, he said he passed Mitchell on the road and subsequently followed his vehicle. He said Mitchell’s vehicle eventually stopped and the former officer exited the car and fired multiple shots in the direction of the officers. Officer Gaitor said his partner, Officer Johnson, was shot to his face.
Officers testified they later encountered Mitchell and another man on First Street. The men wore dark clothing and this time were seated on a grey, black and white motorcycle.
They testified that the passenger, John Roker, complied with their orders and dismounted from the bike, dropping his black shotgun to the ground. Roker was later taken into custody. Mitchell, they said, was given multiple opportunities to surrender but remained seated on his motorcycle. Officers said they shot him when he reached for a pistol in his waist.
Shakeyra Dean represented the family of the deceased in the inquest. Julika Thompson represented the police.