College graduate killed by police draws controversy

Rodney Mitchell was a 23 year old Florida man whose family affectionately called him “Hot Rod.”  He earned the name both for his good looks and his “unending appreciation of life, children, and those who loved him..”  According to the Herald Tribune, he “added great joy to the world.”  He had earned a full scholarship at East New Mexico University (ENMU), where he completed a degree in physical education.  Mitchell had won acclaim as an athletic football player capable of doing full somersaults in the end zone to celebrate a good play.  After graduation, Mitchell returned to Bradenton to work.  Tragically, in June 2012, Mitchell was shot a killed by two Sarasota County Sheriff’s deputies during a routine traffic stop for allegedly not wearing a seat belt.

Many were shocked by the news and could not believe that Mitchell was dead.  ENMU professor and academic adviser to Mitchell, Mary Drabbs, says, “It took me 24 hours to accept that he wasn’t alive.  He was such a live wire, always bouncing around and happy.  It’s awful for us.”

Mitchell’s family echoes the same sentiments.  Mitchell’s mother, Natasha Clemons, spend the time just after hearing the news of her son’s death believing that it was just all a dream.  In addition to many family and friends, Mitchell also left behind a son, who was four years old at the time of his murder.

Deputies involved in the shooting claim that Mitchell drove his SUV into one of them which prompted the shooting.  Mitchell had been returning from a family gathering in Newtown.  Mitchell’s cousin, a passenger in the vehicle reportedly fled on foot.  Regarding him leaving the scene, Daphney Branham, an attorney for the family reports that, “Law enforcement officers fired four bullets into a vehicle in which he was in.  Those bullets could have struck him, and he could have been killed.  So, I only can imagine the shock he was in at that particular time.  His only mission was to go and get help.”

Branham also states, “In the end, we are certain that (their) actions were not justified.  They used excessive force when it was not necessary under those circumstances.”  The case inflamed racial tensions in the town with many questioning officer’s motives. This was due in large part to the fact that Deputy Adam Shaw had a history of being suspended for not following protocol during booking and also being put on a 90 day improvement plan after a series of complaints were made regarding his traffic stops.  The complaints included five people who reported that Shaw had targeted certain drivers for seat belt violations when their seat belts were securely fastened.

An independent investigation by the State Attorney’s Office concluded that the two deputies involved in Mitchell’s death were justified in using deadly force.  The final decision was made by state attorney Earl Mooreland after reviewing the law as well as information gathered by investigations conducted by the Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida Highway Patrol, the Medical Examiner’s Office, and Independent Crime Scene Analyst and Certified Force Science Analyst Alexander Jason.

The investigations found that Mitchell was driving on a suspended license due to a DUI conviction.  Mitchell’s cousin Dorian Gilmer reported that Mitchell objected to being pulled over because he had his seat belt on.  Officer Shaw reported that Mitchell was not wearing his seat belt.  Gilmer stated that as Mitchell took his hands off the gear shift and steering wheel,  Officer Sasse stopped approaching the vehicle, began backing away, and drew his weapon.  As Shaw began scuffling with Mitchell, Sasse fired two rounds at the vehicle within a half a second from each other.  The second bullet went through the driver’s window, struck Mitchell in his raised arm, and then lodged in his head.  Shaw then drew his weapon and also fired two shots.

While deputies report that the Jeep was being driven toward Sasse, Gilmer reported that Mitchell had turned the Jeep away from Sasse.  Sasse was found to have superficial wounds around his right eye and nose, and authorities claim that the injuries were due to blowback from pieces of glass and lead shards from the bullets he fired.  Forensics show that the Jeep was driving away from the deputies when Sasse fired his second shot, but investigators state that Sasse was unaware that Mitchell had turned away from officers as he accelerated away.

Mitchell’s family believes the officers involved bear responsibility for the unjustified murder, and a civil rights lawsuit was filed earlier this month against Sheriff Tom Knight and the two deputies involved.  The suit is alleging that Sheriff Knight implemented unconstitutional policies that contributed to Mitchell’s death.  The suit also alleges that deputies used excessive force and specifically cites Sheriff’s Department policies as a contributing factor.  The 66 page lawsuit also accuses deputies of conducting an illegal traffic stop, which is a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Attorney in the case Vana Renejuste made a statement to ABC 7 Black Almanac host Dr. Ed James saying, “This is nothing but a complete cover up and it appears to be a conspiracy.”  A crime scene investigator hired by Renejuste and other attorneys uncovered multiple inconsistencies between officers’ actions and the internal investigation conducted by the Sheriff’s office.

Expert in Crime Scene Investigations, Ken Williams states, “There is a situation, where as we discussed before, if you admit facts your outcome is going to be different.  And in the case of the Sarasota Sheriff’s Office they have omitted certain facts, they have omitted testimony, and it has tainted the outcome in my belief.  I’m able to analogize it and see things that are criminal, unreasonable, and don’t make sense.  It leads one to believe what the heck is going on in Florida?”

The following video is a clip from ABC 7’s show Black Almanac that reviews Ken Williams,  expert analysis of the shooting.  Watch below to find out what else Williams had to say along with Attorney Sannestine Fortine and Attorney Vana Renejuste.


[leadplayer_vid id=”53B22FD81F35F”]

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33 Comment

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  3. This is nothing new – scene – black man – white police officers – sudden death for the black man even if he’s innocent – when is going to stop – when????????????????????????????

  4. Those psychos in Florida needs to be stopped!

  5. These younger black males and females better wake up, and get it together! Driving on a suspended license is not cool. Mr. Mitchell knew better…on the other hand death is not warranted. The officers should of gave him a citation and kept it moving. I am mortified by this tragedy. GOD is great all the time.

  6. Those Police Officers do not mind spending some time in the PEN for killing a person of color. The money is no big deal because the money is the tax payers money so, then all they have to do is a few years then they are out.

    It is so shameful how our system is but, it is worse in third world countries.

    I was watch a documentary with Dr. King the other evening and it was a sixties, seventies documentary and it was depressing the things that we as people of color had to go thru being spat on and beat by people based on racism. We’ve come a long way but we are not all the way there yet.

  7. ….and its going to continue FOREVER until WE start fighting back like PIT BULLS.

  8. Our so-called leaders have no problem seeing Black Men and Women go off overseas killing and dong all kinds of mayhem to people than have not done the kind of BS done here, in the Non Good Old USA. Yet the war is here.

  9. It seams to me the police had/have plans to get rid of witness.

  10. I just hope there’s justice in this case and the police who shot Mr Mitchell go to jail for the rest of their miserable lives. I could scream knowing that, from all accounts, a wonderful young man is dead and these racist pigs still live.

  11. Im not surprised

  12. Those cops should be put in jail. What they did was murder,it was not justfied in the line of duty.It;s time to boycott everything that Florida produces until that damn state realizes that they are a part of America and must abide by American law.COPS INCLUDED ! I I know I will not buy anything from Florida until I see a change

  13. It is not just Florida! It is every where in America, too many white folks, especially white police have a white supremacy attitude and way of life. It contributes to their demonstrated disdain, disrespect, for black life – black life is not valued. Just as Israel's apartheid regime against the Palestinians, Israelis snipers randomly kill Palestinian teenagers! We have to fight this, the killing of our youth by racist cops and vigilantes is the ugly truth and our . history. People world wide are not tolerating this BS any more!

  14. Brenda Bell-White, I know it's like that all over America. But, especially Florida! The question we should be asking ourselves is what are we going to do about it?

  15. THANK YOU ROOSEVELT RUGLESS AND ONAJE FINALLY SOMEONE OTHER THAN ME SEEING THE TRUTH AND WHAT MUST START HAPPENING IF WE WANT TO LIVE AND RACISM TO STOP. I KNOW IF THAT CROOKED COP Sheriff Tom Knight OR Deputy Adam Shaw stop me to shoot them first and leave. Better them than me and best believe it is not going to be me, this is not the 40's damn cowards with guns and badges…

  16. Joan Brown thank you joan, i wish black people will stop crying and fight back like spartans, actually we are stronger and better warriors than spartans,shoot first instead of getting abused and shoot dead.. Deputy Adam Shaw will for sure get shoot automatically if he stop me sin hesitation.. may the chips fall where they may


  18. Joan Brown : Good question. For starters, we should learn from the mistakes of the past so we don't repeat them. Our black forefathers and mothers during the first half of the 20th century got angry and retaliated. It worked for a while, but then the racist legal system caught up to us and slowed us down. So we have to improve on that strategy so that the hateful legal system does not come back and bite us again.

  19. It seems 2012 was a busy year for racists killing black males! When will it stop?! And why are people putting up with all these murders of black youth?! Trayvon was murdered that year and millions across the country of all races marched in support of justice but what about all the rest?

  20. Eric

    I never thought I’d entertain the thoughts you expressed in your comment , but, I totally agree with you, Eric. The killing of black people will not stop until we “START KILLING THESE COPS BACK, BURN THEIR HOMES AND GIVE THEM A TASTE OF WHAT WE GO THROUGH EVERY SINGLE DAY IN AMERICA”. Things will not change until we fight back. We need black on white crime and maybe Cops and the so called, white superior race, will think twice before they disrespect and kill our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children and our wifes. It’s time to come to this realization. You could be next. I use to think education was the answer. But in America, it doesn’t matter how much education, money or titles you have behind your name or who you are or where you live. You’re a second class citizen, at the mercy of every white person with or without authority because you’re black. Nothing changes without bloodshed. It’s time to come to the realization that race relationships are no better than they were back in the 50’s, when the KKK would come to your home, pull you out of bed and hang you and burn your home. It’s business as usually. This is the American way.

  21. Another promising young man kill for no reason, Lord have mercies up on our kids

  22. I like to commend everyone on their positive input and so I say what are the colors telling you about the red white blue, It seem the patriots are in full force like a rabid dog killing blacks over senseless acts behind a badge so who do you trust in a system so deceitful on covering up an officer malice and his anger to care nothing for loss of life making a decision to kill someone because he felt threaten a lame cry we hear all the time. Like in the military you're train to shoot and kill so are the police each day rehearse shoot to kill and a dead man can tell no truth to the cop lies. The more I see this the more I feel that whites has little merit to say we the people of the united states acting superior but they need us when the war is called so why should we cover their ass as the gun us down in cold blood murder . We should act and forge a bond and we know the will say it gang relater or we're a communist group but no facts proven even when the Black Panther or Malcom X, our eyes are open our hearts should be in defense of our freedom and liberties .

  23. ..another KKK PD lynching of a black male.. WAKE up folks and know that an educated Blackman is a menace to this white supremacist male infrastructure..that’s why these white male cops are killing your sons at a drop of a hat.. nothing knew since the days of this nation’s slave history.. if they can control or stop the blackmale, then they can control the black female..and if you control the black female( make her the mammie of his house or the receptionist of the office) then the white male can control the black males of the office and slaves in the field.. if you can’t control the blackmale lynch him and make him an example.. that’s it in nut shell folks..

  24. The state of FL must be ran by and for the KKK. There is no way I could live there, too many rednecks in high office! I don’t know which is worse FL or TX!

  25. These So Call Caucasians Is Nothing But “KKK’s”. They Better Stop Killing My African Americans Or It Want Be Long Before I Start Traveling All Over The United States Killing As Many Of Those “KKK” Pieces Of Trash As Possible.

  26. The INJUSTICE SYSTEM will do absolutely nothing! !!!,about this blatant and heinous MURDER. THE only recourse is to hope and pray to SATAN that JUSTICE OF DEATH is besbestowed upon these TWO CROOKED, CORRUPT COPS, or their families. I said satan because i know God nor Jesus would condone this HATRED I AM AFFLICTED WITH TOWARDS COPS.

  27. I absolutely love the comments of revolutionary actions against them demons disguised as humans!! That’s what they are, demons disguised as humans who can dish it out but when the violence that they continuously perpetrate against our ppl comeback upon them, they’ll do what they always do, which is committ suicide so that they don’t have to endure what they dish out & just end up back where they came from, which is the pit of hell!!!! :*


  29. Stop praying and praising Jesus and stop asking Jesus to solve this problem.


  30. I

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