A Franklin County grand jury indicted former Columbus Police Vice officer Andrew Mitchell on charges of murder and voluntary manslaughter stemming from the fatal shooting of Donna Castleberry last August.
Mitchell pleaded not guilty on both counts, according to an indictment filed to the Franklin County Clerk of Courts on Thursday. He is due to be arraigned at 1:30 p.m. on Friday.
Mitchell killed Castleberry on August 23 while arresting her on prostitution charges. She stabbed Mitchell's hand while being taken into his unmarked vehicle, according to a report from Columbus Police, and Mitchell fired several shots into the car.
Castleberry faced a single misdemeanor soliciting charge from a July arrest, after offering to have sex with an undercover officer.
While the grand jury was hearing testimony from Mitchell, SURJ Columbus (Showing Up for Racial Justice) organized a protest outside Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien’s office at 3 p.m.
"We are relieved that Donna's family has received the news they hoped, that the Franklin County grand jury decided today to indict Columbus police vice officer Andrew Mitchell for the fatal shooting of Donna Dalton last August," wrote SURJ organizer Tynan Krakoff in a statement.
According to Castleberry’s sister Bobbi McAlla, O’Brien met with Castleberry’s family Thursday afternoon.
WOSU reached out to O’Brien and U.S. Attorney Ben Glassman for comment.
Mitchell retired in bad standing from Columbus Police last month, after being indicted by federal prosecutors on multiple charges. The FBI alleges Mitchell kidnapped victims under the guise of an arrest and forced them to have sex in exchange for their release.
A grand jury indicted Mitchell on seven counts: three counts of depriving victims’ rights while acting under the color of the law, two counts of witness tampering, one count of obstruction of justice, and one count of making false statements to federal agents.
Mitchell was a 31-year department veteran who worked primarily on solicitation cases within the Vice Unit. He had been relieved of duty in September amid multiple misconduct investigations.
O'Brien recommends every police-involved shooting to a grand jury. After 23 years in office, however, Mitchell marks the first time O'Brien has secured an indictment for an officer accused of shooting a civilian.
While SURJ welcomed news of Mitchell's indictment, activists revived their calls for O'Brien to leave office.
"We question why there were no indictments for the fatal shootings of Ty’re King, Henry Green, Jaron Thomas, and countless others," Krakoff wrote. "We know he is up for re-election November 2020 and we will work to keep him from being re-elected.”
Castleberry's death was one contributing factor to the Columbus Police probe and later FBI investigation into the Vice Unit. The unit was disbanded last month by interim Columbus Police chief Tom Quinlan.
Two other vice officers total have been relieved of duty since September. Both the internal and FBI investigations are still ongoing.
Update April 5, 2:26 p.m.: Andrew Mitchell is being held without bond after pleading not guilty to charges of murder and voluntary manslaughter.
If you have information to share about the Vice Unit, contact WOSU at firstname.lastname@example.org.