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New Hero Search Johnny Edward Mitchell
- Dec. 31, 1971 -
(259)

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Metro-Dade FL Police Dept. Patch
Resided: FL, USA
Born: Feb. 02, 1942  
Fallen: Dec. 31, 1971
Race/Sex: Black Male / 29 yrs. of age
Agency
Dept: Metro-Dade Police Dept.
9105 NW 25 St.  
Doral, FL   33172   USA
County: Dade
Dept. Type: County/Police
Hero's Rank: Patrolman
Sworn Date: 10/1970
FBI Class: Crash
Weapon Class: Vehicle
Agency URL: Click Here
On The Job: 1 years
Bio: Johnny Edward Mitchell was born on Feb. 2, 1942, in Durham, N.C., to John and Della Brantley Mitchell. Young Johnny was the couple's only child as John Sr. died in the early 1950's. Della remarried (to Vanda Gerald) and the couple had two children, Marvin (10 years younger than Johnny) and Constance.

Johnny Mitchell attended Durham's W.G. Pearson Elementary School, Whitted Jr. High School, and graduated from Hillside H.S. in 1961. The Hillside yearbook for 1961 indicated that "Mitch" was in the Vocal Club and varsity "H" Club and on the track team and football staff.

In pursuit of his stated ambition to become a jet mechanic, Johnny Mitchell joined the U.S. Air Force after graduation from H.S. in 1961. He was first stationed at Langley AFB in Virginia where he met and married Dorothy Eachin. The couple's first two children, Johnny, Jr., and Darlene were born in VA while their father was in the Air Force. Mitchell was later stationed at Clark AFB in the Philippines where he periodically flew in and out of Vietnam. He spent 8 years in the Air Force with his last station being at Homestead AFB. He was discharged in 1969 with the rank of staff sergeant.

Mitchell worked briefly as a mechanic for National Airlines in Miami after his discharge from the Air Force in 1969 before joining the Metro Police Dept. in May of 1970. He graduated from the Dade Police Academy on Oct. 13, 1970. Officer Mitchell was assigned to the midnight shift at the North District and had been an officer for only 10 months when he was fatally injured in the car crash. His sister, Constance, was visiting her brother in Miami when the accident occurred. She was soon joined at the hospital by Mitchell's mother who came from NC to be with her critically injured son. Mitchell never regained consciousness.

Survived by:
Dorothy Mae Eachin Mitchell - Wife

son, Johnny Edward, II, 6, and two daughters, Darlene, 2, and Tanya, 3 months, of Miami; his mother, Della Gerald, 47, of Durham; his step-father, Vanda Gerald of Durham; a brother, Marvin Lewis; a sister, Constance; a maternal grandmother, Margie Caviness; a paternal grandmother, Jrs. John Mitchell; and two aunts, Rosa Mitchell and Dorothy Mitchell of Durham.

Fatal Incident Summary
Offender: David G. Tracy
  
Location: FL   USA   Fri. Dec. 31, 1971
Summary: The fatal incident began around 2:00AM on Thursday, July 22, 1971, when an Opa-locka police officer saw a car run a red light at Opa-locka Blvd. (N.W. 145 St.) and 27 Ave. and attempted to pull the car over. However, the driver fled east on Opa-locka Blvd. (a one-way westbound thoroughfare) and then north on I-95.

After the "in pursuit" call went out over the police radio asking other departments for assistance, several Opa-locka and Metro officers along with officers from N. Miami, N. Miami Beach and troopers from FHP joined in the chase. Both the Miami Herald and the Miami News reported that the chase at one point involved speeds up to 100 mph and involved ten radio cars from five police departments. N. Miami officers "attempted to set up a roadblock on I-95 in the path of the fugitive but the speeding fugitive evaded it" according to police.

Officer Mitchell decided to join the chase in his 1970 Plymouth police vehicle. Hearing that the pursued car was heading north on I-95, Mitchell attempted to take a short-cut and drove his police cruiser the wrong way on an exit ramp at the Golden Glades Exchange of I-95 and then headed north (i.e., the wrong way) in the southbound lane of the expressway (which was not heavily traveled at this hour). About 1 & 12 miles south of Miami Gardens Drive (and just south of the cloverleaf), Mitchell's police car was hit by a southbound 1965 Chevrolet station wagon driven by an "innocent" Plantation flight engineer, John A. Wilbur, 45, who was on his way to work at Miami International Airport.

Wilbur was prevented from seeing the oncoming police cruiser by a curve and an incline. Mitchell was driving in the right lane when he saw oncoming traffic approaching. He attempted to move from the right to the left lane to avoid the oncoming car but apparently "lost control" of his vehicle and "rotated clockwise" (i.e., slid sideways) across the three lanes of traffic. Wilbur's vehicle was traveling in the middle lane and struck Mitchell's police cruiser on the driver's side. Wilbur was taken to Parkway General Hospital in "serious" condition.

Officer Mitchell was taken by an Eastern ambulance to Parkway General Hospital and admitted at 5:45AM with severe head injuries. After surgery doctors reported that he had a "brain stem contusion with coma." During his first week of hospitalization at Parkway, Mitchell needed 28 pints of blood a day for transfusions. The blood was supplied by a massive blood drive by fellow officers.

On Nov. 6, 1971 (after 3 & 12 months), Mitchell was transferred to the Heritage House Nursing Home at 2201 N.E. 170th St. in N. Miami Beach. He remained in a coma though he had (largely) recovered from his physical injuries.

Mitchell was re-admitted to Parkway with pneumonia on Dec. 13, 1971, and discharged to the nursing home on Dec. 21. He died at 7:50AM on Dec. 31, 1971 (five months after the accident) at the nursing home of "multiple medical complications" as a result of injuries from the accident. The death certificate indicated that the primary cause of death was "acute suppurative bronchpneumonia" due to a coma and blunt trauma.

The death of Officer Mitchell led Dade Sheriff E. Wilson Purdy to launch an investigation into the high-speed chase and accident. Purdy indicated the day after the accident that though high-speed chases were dangerous they were often necessary. The Herald reported that "several police officers expressed amazement that Mitchell would chance driving the wrong way on the expressway even in the light, early morning traffic."

It should be noted that Johnny Mitchell's family in N.C. still believes that his death did not occur as related in the above narrative but that he was killed by a man who was angry that Mitchell had arrested him for a domestic assault and then beat him when he resisted arrest. The family believes that the fatal car crash was staged and that members of the Sheriff's Department and the KKK were part of the cover-up. The Mitchell family claims that they hired a lawyer to look into the rumors but called off the investigation when threats were received.

Disposition: Tracy eventually pled guilty to misdemeanor traffic charges in the Mitchell case and received a short jail term. He had no further problems with the law after 1971.

Source: Book       Excerpted in part or in whole from Dr. Wilbanks book-

FORGOTTEN HEROES: POLICE OFFICERS KILLED IN DADE COUNTY, FL, 1895-1995

by William Wilbanks

Louisville: Turner Publications

1996

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