Two Cincinnati police officers have been charged in the cover up of a car accident involving a third officer, Sgt. Andrew Mitchell. Mitchell was the same officer who shot and killed local musician David “Bones” Hebert in Northside in 2011, according to a source within the department.
According to court documents filed July 4, Mitchell was off duty and driving his personal vehicle, a Honda Odyssey, on West McMicken Avenue in Fairview at 5 a.m. when he ran into a pole.
Afterward, Officer Jason Cotterman and Sgt. Richard Sulfsted concealed Mitchell from witnesses, helped him get home and did not fully investigate the accident, according to charges pending against them in Hamilton County Municipal Court.
Sulfsted, a 20-year CPD veteran, was the supervisor on duty at the time. Both Cotterman and Sulfsted face multiple counts of obstructing justice and dereliction of duty. They’re expected in court July 12.
Mitchell faces charges in relation to the accident, including reckless operation of a motor vehicle. He will be in court July 10 on those charges.
It is unclear if other charges are pending for Mitchell related to the cover up.
“Resulting from an internal Cincinnati Police Department investigation, three Cincinnati Police officers have been arrested and had their police powers suspended pending the outcome of court proceedings, which are now underway,” City Manager Harry Black said in a memo released today.
The memo reveals that the incident was reported to CPD’s internal investigation unit the next day, and that law enforcement officials and prosecutors have reviewed the case for months.
The accident and subsequent cover-up charges raise questions that have yet to be addressed as Cincinnati police continue their investigation, including the nature of Mitchell’s activities that night along West McMicken Avenue, his fellow officers’ motivations for the alleged cover up and why Mitchell has remained on the force following other questionable situations in his past service.
As of CityBeat’s press time, police had not responded to multiple requests for comment on the charges, and a voicemail box for CPD’s public information office was full on July 7, according to an automated message.
CityBeat has filed public records requests for more information on the incident.
“You certainly don’t see Cincinnati police officers being arrested and charged with not handling their responsibilities for the manner in which they handled an investigation,” CPD spokeswoman Danita Pettis told local media July 7. “No, it’s not common practice, it’s not commonplace and certainly it’s not something we like to see in our officers. But when there is evidence presented that shows these charges are appropriate, then obviously that is the appropriate course of action.
Mitchell’s shooting of Hebert in 2011 was controversial, causing a number of protests and investigations in Cincinnati. The shooting also led to a 2012 wrongful death lawsuit against the Cincinnati Police Department. That lawsuit claimed Hebert was complying with instructions given by an investigating officer when he was shot and killed by Mitchell in Northside. The suit also claimed excessive force was used and that Mitchell “acted intentionally, recklessly, wantonly, and with deliberate indifference to the constitutional rights of Mr. Hebert.”
Mitchell shot Hebert after officers responded to a 911 call around 3 a.m. alleging that Hebert had robbed and assaulted an intoxicated man with a pirate sword. Hebert was located sitting on a sidewalk on Chase Avenue about 10 minutes later.
During subsequent questioning, officers say Hebert drew a knife and moved toward an investigating officer, causing Mitchell to believe the officer’s life was in danger. Mitchell shot Hebert twice, killing him.
Independent Citizen Complaint Authority and police investigations into the shooting found that responding officers, including Mitchell, got too close to Hebert and did not have a plan for engaging him, a violation of CPD procedure.
Reports show that responding officers barely spoke with each other about the situation before engaging Hebert. Despite the fact he didn’t follow procedures, three internal investigations cleared Mitchell of wrongdoing.
That wasn’t the only controversial incident involving Mitchell, however. In January of 2008, he was the subject of a civil rights suit after he allegedly used a taser improperly against a teenager.
Mitchell allegedly tased Christopher Bauer from his police cruiser after he asked Bauer to stop. However, the teen was wearing headphones and a hoodie and didn’t hear the command. Bauer’s suit says he fell face forward and sustained substantial injuries during the incident.
Mitchell was eventually placed on a 40-hour suspension after exhausting appeals within the department’s disciplinary system.©