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    Tuesday, July 16, 2024

    Slain Minneapolis officer, called ‘hero,’ comes home to Conn.

    A service was held Monday at the Floyd Little Athletic Center in New Haven, Conn., hometown of slain Minneapolis police officer Jamal Mitchell. Shown is a salute by law enforcement officers during a public memorial service for Mitchell at Maple Grove Senior High School, Tuesday, June 11, 2024, in Maple Grove, Minn. Mitchell was shot and killed while responding to a shooting on May 30, 2024. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr, Pool)

    As slain Minneapolis Police Officer Jamal James Mitchell was welcomed back to his hometown of New Haven on Monday, his chief and others described him as a man of character and heroism who was taken too soon.

    “Jamal Mitchell was truly a guardian of our community,” said Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara. “Jamal was courageous to his core. He was empathetic. And he was deeply committed to our cause, especially today. Jamal was heroic as a man until the very end.”

    Mitchell, 36, who served in the Minneapolis Police Department just 18 months, was ambushed May 30 when he responded to a call of a double shooting at an apartment complex.

    When Mitchell went to help a man whom he thought needed help, the man shot Mitchell to death. The shooter and two others also died at the scene.

    A memorial service had been held in Minneapolis for Mitchell. Monday’s service was held at the Floyd Little Athletic Center in New Haven.

    Minneapolis officers in their sky blue uniforms attended, forming the honor guard, as did officers from Newark, N.J., Suffolk County, N.Y., New Jersey State Police, Bridgeport, New London, West Hartford, New Haven and West Haven, among others.

    O’Hara said that just three days after starting on the force, Mitchell ran into a burning house, “And he rescued an elderly couple that could not find their way out because of smoke.” He earned the department’s Lifesaving Award for that act, O’Hara said.

    He has been given the department’s Medal of Honor and Purple Heart awards posthumously.

    “And it just shows the type of person that he is,” O’Hara said. “He told folks, this is what I got into law enforcement for. When a reporter asked him, Are you trained to run into burning buildings?, he said ‘No, but that’s what we’re here for. We’re here to put our lives before others.’

    “That’s the kind of commitment police chiefs can only hope for in our members,” he said. “It’s the kind of commitment that we need, especially in Minneapolis today.”

    The Minneapolis Police Department came under heavy criticism after the death of George Floyd on May 5, 2020, when an officer knelt on Floyd’s neck, an incident New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker alluded to in his remarks Monday.

    “I’ll continue to say that it is not how Jamal died that made him a hero. It is how he lived his life,” O’Hara said. “I wish you all could see the outpouring of love from the community that Jamal received from Minneapolis. Every day … there were hundreds and hundreds of people that came out to offer their condolences for Jamal.”

    New Haven Police Chief Karl Jacobson said he was going to ask family members or friends what Mitchell was like.

    “And then I realized, I know exactly who Jamal is,” he said. He was like the Minneapolis officers and the New Haven officers and the 700,000 officers across the nation, he said.

    “Although we look different and police different communities, we are all the same in the way our fundamental duty is to serve the community, to save lives and property, to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation and the peaceful against violence or disorder and to respect the constitutional rights of all to liberty, equality and justice,” he said.

    Elicker described Mitchell as a shy boy, watched over by his great-grandmother, Martha Green, now 101 — who gave a eulogy — his grandparents, parents and other family members.

    “His heroic life stood as a testament to overcoming his challenges as a young Black man because he made the right choices,” Elicker said.

    Growing up at St. Mary’s Church, “these rich experiences gave him the armor we all need to face life’s difficulties,” Elicker said. “This was his church. This was his community village. … Jamal had the right people standing at the crossroads.”

    As a police officer, “Jamal took every chance to see people and to build trust,” Elicker said. “He leaned into tense relationships at a time when to be a police officer anywhere in the United States is challenging, because I think he wanted to do his part to undo such a horrible wrong that happened with the murder of George Floyd and to support the profession and the trust between the community and the police department.”

    Elicker said Mitchell also coached his son’s youth basketball league, volunteering with the police activity league and reading to children.

    “Jamal Mitchell was an authentic American hero and will be sorely missed. Welcome home,” he said.

    Commissioner Ronnell Higgins of the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection and former Yale police chief, said while “Mitchell’s service to the city of Minneapolis was short, it was something to behold. Jamal wanted to be the change he wanted to see in policing and he did so in a brief period of time.

    “Officer Jamal Mitchell was a blessing,” he said. “Officer Jamal Mitchell answered the call.”

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