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DA’s office will review shooting of Iraq veteran

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The Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office has begun a review into the March shooting death of Jonathan Mitchell at the hands of a neighbor on the city’s West Side.

The DA’s office just received the results of a three-month police investigation into the shooting, said Kayla Anderson, spokeswoman for the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

“We need to read (the reports), find out if we need additional investigation, etc.,” Anderson said this week by email.

“We’ve also agreed to meet with the victim’s family, prior to making any decision,” she said.

The review is expected to determine whether any laws were broken and by whom in the death of Mitchell, who police said was shot and killed after he fired first on neighbor Donnie Pearson, and his 15-year-old son on March 19 in the Ventana Ranch neighborhood.

Pearson and his son had gone to check on another neighbor’s welfare, after the neighbor, Jose Beltran, arrived home to find Mitchell in his driveway brandishing a handgun. Mitchell then reportedly shouted profanities and ran off, according to initial police reports.

Later, Pearson and his son were in their vehicle outside Mitchell’s home in the 7000 block of Sanderling NW when Mitchell reportedly stepped out of his garage and fired once at Pearson and missed, Pearson told police. Pearson, who had a concealed carry permit for a handgun, shot back and fatally wounded Mitchell.

No arrests have been made in the case. Albuquerque police spokeswoman Tasia Martinez said at the time that it appeared it was a case of self defense and that Pearson had no other choice than to defend himself and his son when Mitchell opened fire on their vehicle.

Police investigators have said it’s unclear why Mitchell, who had served in the U.S. Army stationed in Iraq, may have been walking through the neighborhood with a gun. He had no prior criminal arrests, according to online records.

Attempts to contact the family this week for comment were not successful, although Mitchell’s father, Isaac, said shortly after the shooting that he was concerned by what he termed the “vigilantism of neighbors.” He also said the incident should have been entirely handled by police.

Mitchell, 24, was described by his father as “a soft-spoken man with a great heart,” who ran track and played football at La Cueva High School. He said his son had enlisted in the Army “because he wanted to make a difference.”

After the shooting, the Albuquerque National Association for the Advancement of Colored People issued a statement saying it was deeply concerned about the circumstances surrounding the killing of an African-American war veteran and that it was an “unfortunate and preventable tragedy.”

Harold Bailey, president of the Albuquerque NAACP, said this week that a key issue in the incident revolves around the fact that Pearson instigated the fatal exchange of gunfire by not allowing police to entirely handle the matter.

“Mr. Pearson shouldn’t have been there in the first place,” Bailey said. “He had no legal authority to engage Mr. Mitchell.”

Commenting on the DA’s review of the case, he said, “We just want the right thing to happen; we want justice.”

“We want someone to be held accountable; we just want what is fair,” Bailey added.

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