DA justifies lack of charges in death of veteran

Created: 03/07/2014 10:27 PM
By: Ryan Luby, KOB Eyewitness News 4

If the family of Jonathan Mitchell has any hope of criminal justice in his death, the district attorney will likely not be able to help.

On Friday, District Attorney Kari Brandenburg said she would likely never file charges against Donnie Pearson, the neighbor accused of shooting Mitchell in Mar. 2012, since Pearson appeared to act in self-defense.

“Jonathan Mitchell fired the first shot and then Pearson returned fire,” she said. “Under the law, that is self-defense and that makes it justified.  And the law doesn’t support us bringing charges.”

Just before midnight on Mar. 19, Pearson told Albuquerque police officers that he and his 15-year-old son got into Pearson’s SUV, where he stores a handgun, to look for an armed man who was reportedly standing near a neighbor’s home.  A few minutes later, Pearson slowly drove down Mitchell’s street.  When he drove past Mitchell’s driveway, Mitchell fired a shot.  Pearson fired back.

APD’s helicopter, which was in the area at the time of the shooting, captured video that shows the exchange of gunfire.  It proved Mitchell fired the first shot.

“We don’t have any indication that Mr. Pearson went out looking for a fight, or went out looking to do harm,” Brandenburg said.

Regardless, Mitchell’s family staged a protest in front of Brandenburg’s office Friday afternoon.

“There is a need for justice in this country,” Isaac Mitchell, Jonathan’s father said. “African-American males are being killed and no one’s being held accountable for it.”

The family said Friday, as they have before, that Pearson must have provoked Mitchell to cause him to shoot.

“Someone should be held accountable,” Dr. Harold Bailey, president of Albuquerque’s chapter of the NAACP said.

On Friday, the FBI confirmed to KOB Eyewitness News 4 that it will not pursue a civil rights or federal criminal investigation.

Brandenburg said she’s in the process of contracting New Mexico State Police, or NMSP, to ask the agency to consider a supplemental investigation.  She said she would have contacted the agency earlier, but assumed Mitchell’s family already had.  Brandenburg was unaware that the agency told the family in November that it would not pursue the case unless the district attorney’s office contacted officers directly.

“The family has not contacted me, Doctor Bailey has not contacted me, no one has communicated that with me.  We could have saved a lot of time,” Brandenburg said.

Again, at this point though, Brandenburg does not believe there’s much of a case.

“We have an ethical responsibility to follow the law and I’m not sure the law allows us to file any charges on this,” she said.

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