Audio of the last moments of Donna Castleberry’s life played for the jury
“Don’t get your hands on me! Help! Please help me! Please help me!”
The final moments of Donna Dalton Castleberry’s life were captured on an audio recording on the cellphone of former Columbus Police Vice Officer Andrew Mitchell on August 23, 2018.
On Tuesday, the recording was played to a jury in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas during the trial of Mitchell, 58, on one count of murder and manslaughter in connection with the shooting death of Castleberry. He is the first Columbus police officer to be charged with an on-duty shooting in at least 20 years.
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Franklin County Assistant District Attorney Sheryl Prichard said in a brief opening statement Tuesday that Castleberry turned to prostitution while battling a drug addiction. She was working on the Hilltop when she met Mitchell. The two agreed on a price of $25 for a sex act, according to the audio recording.
“She was polite and cooperative,” Prichard said.
Mitchell partially parked behind an apartment building on the 300 block of South Yale Avenue in Franklinton, with the passenger side of his unmarked sedan near the building so the doors could not be opened. Mitchell told Castleberry she was under arrest. Castleberry asked to see his badge.
Mitchell didn’t have it.
Castleberry asked to see Mitchell’s walkie-talkie. He didn’t have it either.
“You are not the police,” Castleberry said on the audio recording.
Castleberry told a person walking towards a dumpster in the parking lot to call the police because Mitchell had a “fake badge” and was trying to kidnap her.
Mitchell is then heard using an expletive towards Castleberry and a fight ensues.
“Don’t put your hands on me!” Castleberry screamed several times.
Castleberry had slid into the back seat of the four-door unmarked police car in an attempt to get out of the vehicle, but had been unable to open the rear driver’s side door as the child safety locks were engaged.
“She cut me,” Mitchell said after Castleberry pulled out a knife and stabbed the man she apparently thought was trying to rape her.
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Mitchell fired six shots in 12 seconds, hitting Castleberry three times.
Family members and friends of Castleberry, some of whom were turned away on Tuesday because there was not enough room in the courtroom for all the spectators, cried as they heard the gunshots on the Recording and Castleberry’s Last Words.
“Ok, ok, I’m sorry,” she said.
Mitchell is then heard calling the situation a “fuckin’ nightmare”, before the audio ends.
“It wasn’t a split-second decision. He wasn’t an officer shooting for his life,” Prichard said. Some of the shots, according to the prosecution, were fired by Mitchell while he was partially outside the car.
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Kaitlyn Stephens, one of Mitchell’s lawyers, said what the audio didn’t show was the nature of the “death struggle” going on inside the car.
“You can’t look back,” Stephens said. “You have to put yourself in Andy Mitchell’s shoes as he was going through these things.”
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Stephens said Mitchell was “severed” in his right hand, requiring 34 stitches in emergency surgery and a blood transfusion. She said Castleberry also tried to choke Mitchell, causing him to begin to lose consciousness.
Stephens said Castleberry had cocaine and fentanyl in his system, along with an active warrant for his arrest.
“She didn’t want to go to jail,” Stephens said, claiming that Castleberry escalated the situation with Mitchell when she realized he was going to check on her for warrants, going “from non-compliant to violent in a few seconds”.
“The confrontation didn’t stop until Andrew Mitchell fired to stop the threat,” Stephens said.
She said Mitchell, who was a member of the Columbus Police Vice Unit at the time of the shooting and was working undercover, in plain clothes, had undergone training at the division’s range on when to use force. murderous. The training lasted for hours before Castleberry was shot.
“They’re trained to shoot until the threat is over,” Stephens said.
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Jury taken to see Mitchell’s unmarked car, filming scene
On Tuesday afternoon, the jury was taken to the Columbus police impound lot to view the Mitsubishi sedan that Mitchell had used as an unmarked car. The jury was also taken to the South Yale Avenue parking lot where the shooting took place.
Testimony is scheduled to begin on Wednesday. The prosecution plans to call at least eight witnesses, including an expert on police use of force. The defense will itself call several witnesses. It’s unclear whether Mitchell will testify.