Text By DAVID CORREIA; Photos By SAYRAH NAMASTE
Just before midnight on March 20, 2013, after a neighbor called him about someone in the area with a gun, Donnie Pearson grabbed his gun and 15-year old son and jumped in his SUV. The two slowly drove in circles around their Ventana Ranch neighborhood. Driving with their headlights off and on the wrong side of the street, they found 23-year old Iraq-war veteran Jonathan Mitchell, standing in front of his house. Mitchell’s brother Benjamin stood nearby inside their garage. In a statement to police later, Benjamin says Jonathan was alarmed and thought he was being stalked. Pearson circled in front of Mitchell at least three times and finally stopped in front of the driveway. Mitchell shot at the SUV and Pearson immediately returned fire, wounding Mitchell. The Mitchell brothers turned and ran, making it no farther than the neighbor’s yard where Jonathan collapsed. Benjamin gave first-aid to Jonathan until APD arrived and handcuffed him, leaving Jonathan to bleed to death.
District Attorney Kari Brandenburg has refused to charge Pearson with a crime, calling the shooting self-defense. The Mitchell family has asked the US Department of Justice to launch a criminal investigation.
Since Mitchell’s death, the family, with the help of the Albuquerque chapter of the NAACP, has worked to bring attention to the case. Those efforts continued this past Monday on what would have been Jonathan Mitchell’s 24th birthday as more than 40 people joined Jonathan’s father, Isaac, and Jonathan’s uncle, Lawrence, to protest in front of the office of the District Attorney. Protesters included family members of victims of APD violence and members of the NAACP including the local president, Harold Bailey.
A live band accompanied chanting: “No Justice, No Peace, No Racist Police” and “Hey hey, ho ho, Brandenburg has got to go!” while family, friends and allies crowded the sidewalk along Lomas holding signs that read”Justice for Jonathan.” Others chalked messages on the sidewalk in front of the DA’s office.
Jonathan’s brother Lawrence read a poem he wrote for the occasion called “Fast and Pray.” Many of Jonathan’s family and friends, including his high school principal Mary Darling, fasted on Monday as a way to remember and commemorate Jonathan.
As the rally came to an end, family, friends and allies released dozens of helium-filled green balloons, in memory of Jonathan, into the sky.