Crime, Law and Justice

Minneapolis police Chief Brian O’Hara says officer killed was working overtime

a memorial for slain Minneapolis police officer
Flowers decorate a memorial for slain Minneapolis police officer Jamal Mitchell outside the 5th Precinct on Wednesday Minneapolis.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

Officer Jamal Mitchell had volunteered to work overtime for the shift that ended in his death, Minneapolis police Chief Brian O’Hara said Wednesday.

“He was performing one of the critical staffing shifts that evening that had just begun, after he had volunteered to work overtime for the day shift as well,” O’Hara said.

Critical staffing shifts are overtime hours in which officers make twice their normal rate.

The department has leaned on overtime to deal with a persistent staffing shortage. MPD has lost hundreds of officers since George Floyd’s killing by a Minneapolis police officer in 2020. O’Hara said staffing is currently down 40 percent.

But he also said that wasn’t an issue the afternoon Mitchell was killed, because there were extra police officers downtown.

“We just happen to have dozens of extra officers working because there was a Timberwolves game, and several of them were some of the first responders that came there to help, so we were lucky with that,” O’Hara said.

Mitchell was first to arrive on scene, and he showed up alone. O'Hara told MPR News he believes that wasn’t a factor either.

“Even if there was another person, another police officer in the car with him, there’s nothing to say that there’s nothing to suggest that would have stopped the ambush,” O’Hara said.

He said Mitchell’s killer is the only one to blame. 

“(Mitchell) simply got out of the car, was putting on medical gloves, was approaching one of the individuals in an attempt to begin offering aid, and he was very suddenly and violently murdered. I don’t even know for sure if he saw it coming,” O’Hara said. “There’s nothing anyone could have possibly done to change that.”

Mitchell was shot and killed on May 30, after being called to south Minneapolis for reports of a double shooting at an apartment building. Police said Mitchell saw two injured men near the scene and tried to help them.

“He believed he was on scene with two victims of the shooting from the original call. And he was not,” O’Hara said.

Mitchell was shot by Mustafa Ahmed Mohamed, according to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension report. Other officers fired on Mohamed, who was declared dead at the scene. Mitchell was transported to the hospital where he was declared dead. 

O’Hara said memorial plans for Mitchell are still being finalized with the family. 

Brian O’Hara spoke on All Things Considered Wednesday. Hear the full interview using the audio player above.