Former Columbus vice officer indicted in the shooting death of Donna Castleberry

COLUMBUS— A Franklin County grand jury has indicted former Columbus Division of Police Vice Officer Andrew Mitchell.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien speaks on the indictment:

The grand jury met over the past two days to consider evidence regarding the fatal officer-involved shooting of Donna Castleberry during an alleged prostitution sting.

Mitchell has been charged with murder and voluntary manslaughter.

At the time of the shooting, Columbus Police said that Castleberry pulled a knife and cut Mitchell and that he, in turn, opened fire shooting Castleberry three times, killing her.

But Castleberry’s family has cried foul, stating that two weeks before the August 23, 2018 shooting, Mitchell had become the subject of a separate criminal investigation by his own department but was allowed to remain on the force and work his covert beat as a vice officer.

In September, now-former Police Chief Kim Jacobs suspended the operations of the vice unit following Castleberry’s shooting and the controversy that surrounded the efforts of other vice officers investigating Columbus strip clubs. That controversy boiled to the surface with the July arrest of Stormy Daniels and two other women for violating a rarely cited state law that prohibits physical contact between exotic dancers and patrons.

(Internal affairs records from the Columbus Division of Police show that the city attorney’s office had warned vice officers that the law was problematic. Cases against dozens of strippers were later dismissed).

Fast forward seven months and newly-appointed Interim Police Chief Tom Quinlan announced that he was dissolving the vice unit a week after Andrew Mitchell was charged in federal court - accused of abusing his police powers by allegedly coaxing women into sex in exchange for their freedom. He faces seven charges - including lying to the FBI.

He’s pleaded not guilty but if convicted he could face life in prison.

10 Investigates also discovered that Mitchell owns several rental properties across Columbus. Records reviewed by 10 Investigates found that there have been 630 police runs to those properties since 2013. Some of them include acts of violence and sex crimes. And some of the women who listed their addresses as Mitchell’s properties have been arrested for solicitation.

Federal prosecutors allege that Mitchell rented to known prostitutes and would sometimes accept sex in exchange for rent.

Three vice officers - included Mitchell, Whitney Lancaster and Steve Rosser - have been relieved of their police duties. Rosser and Lancaster were involved in the arrest of Stormy Daniels and spearheaded other investigations into allegations of drug use or human trafficking at area strip clubs.

Mitchell - a 31-year veteran of the force -retired from the police force a day after federal charges were announced.

Quinlan provided the following statement:

“Our officers work diligently and professionally to protect the residents of Columbus. I respect the Franklin County Grand Jury decision to indict former officer Mitchell on charges of Murder and Voluntary Manslaughter. We will continue to work with the prosecutor’s office throughout the criminal proceedings. Andrew Mitchell’s actions have cast a long shadow over the Columbus Division of Police. I am taking concrete actions to restore the public’s trust. Mitchell was relieved of duty and has since retired in bad standing. The Vice Section has been disbanded. We will continue internal reviews to make sure that the Columbus Division of Police embodies our mission for the people of Columbus.”

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther also released a statement on the indictment:

“Today’s indictment, as well as the federal indictments announced last month, send a clear message that we will not tolerate the abuse of power or victimization of residents by anyone in law enforcement. Prosecuting Andrew Mitchell is essential both to protect our community and to support the many honorable officers whose reputations he has unfairly tarnished.

“I applaud the grand jury for the indictment and believe in Prosecutor Ron O’Brien’s full and vigorous attention to the arraignment and trial.”

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