New Mexico State Police will investigate the shooting death of a black Iraq War veteran by his Albuquerque neighbor after complaints by civil rights groups, the agency announced Thursday.
In a statement, state police said it has agreed to conduct a thorough review into the March 2013 death of Jonathan Mitchell. Authorities said the 24-year-old Mitchell was fatally shot by neighbor Donnie Pearson during what Pearson described as an exchange of gunfire.
But Albuquerque chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference have disputed Pearson's version and said he instigated the confrontation. They also suggested race may have been a factor and have compared it to the shooting death of Florida teenager, Trayvon Martin.
George Zimmerman told police he shot Martin only after the African-American teenager physically attacked him; Martin's family and supporters say Zimmerman, who identifies himself as Hispanic, marked Martin as a potential criminal because he was black.
Mitchell's family also has long claimed that Pearson drove up to Mitchell's garage and shot him in his front yard.
"There are a lot of similarities with the Trayvon Martin," Albuquerque NAACP president Harold Bailey said. "Pearson shouldn't have been there in the first place, like Zimmerman."
Video taken from an Albuquerque police helicopter showed Mitchell firing first in an exchange of gunfire with Pearson but also revealed that Pearson's SUV drove up to Mitchell's garage.
Albuquerque police later said investigators didn't have probable cause to charge Pearson.
Calls to a phone number listed for Pearson were not answered.
According to state police, the Albuquerque Police Department, the 2nd Judicial District Attorney's Office and Mitchell's family asked for the review.
The review will be conducted by the Investigations Bureau of the New Mexico State Police, according to officials.
State police said Albuquerque police has provided the state with a copy of their investigation.
Bailey said he was pleased about the review. "We just want a fair and objective review of all the facts," Mitchell said.
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