Martinus Mitchum loved three things.
He loved church, where you could find him every Sunday and Thursday.
He loved children, though he didn’t have any of his own.
And he loved law enforcement, the career path he was so ambitious about and the one that eventually led to his tragic death on Friday night.
Mitchum, a Tulane University police officer and reserve 2nd City Court constable, was working a security detail at a basketball game at George Washington Carver High School when he was shot and killed. Mitchum died after intervening in an altercation between John Shallerhorn and a school administrator, and police say Shallerhorn admitted to the police afterwards that he shot Mitchum.
“It hurts because he was one of the best,” said Lyn Clark, a former football player at O. Perry Walker High School where Mitchum worked from 2006-2016. “They killed somebody that helped so many African- American students come out of there and become something. He always supported everything. How do you take the life of someone who helped the lives of so many people who they said weren’t going to be anything?”
Clark, now 26, was one of those people Mitchum always checked on. But Mitchum, or “Mitch” as everyone called him, checked on everybody.
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Everyone was “my son” or “my daughter” to him.
“We would always tease him and say Mitch you have more children than anybody to be so young,” said Sheryl Eaglin, Mitchum’s former co-worker.
Mitchum and Eaglin both started working at O. Perry Walker in 2006. He eventually became like family to her.
“He would irk me like a little brother at times, but he was so genuine and there was nothing he wouldn’t do for those kids,” Eaglin said.
Mitchum, a Detroit native, was working security at the school when he first started. But that didn’t last long.
“We transitioned him to some other positions because of how well he dealt with the children and his other skill sets,” said Tarance Davis, the school’s former athletic director. Mitchum was put in charge of student data and enrollment and also became the director of basketball and football operations.
In the 2013-’14 school year, O. Perry Walker merged with Landry High School to form Landry-Walker and the school won the state basketball championship the first season. It was the first of three state titles in four years for the school.
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“We probably wouldn’t have those championships that we have in basketball if it wasn’t for Mitch,” Davis said. “He just has a heart for the well being of children. He played a vital role with the organization and administrative parts of putting that program to what it became.”
Brian Gibson was the coach of those teams and said they couldn’t have done it without Mitchum, who handled all the administrative duties. He booked hotels on road trips, made the food arrangements and did all the other behind the scene duties.
“He was really responsible, making sure all of our business was in place,” Gibson said. “We were very successful and a lot of that was because I didn’t have to worry about that stuff. You think about how many kids we were able to send to college. He worked directly with them to make sure they had what they needed and they respected him for that. It was nothing but love with him and the kids. He expected certain things and wanted it done a certain way and I think the kids appreciated that about him.”
Because of his love for the church, many family members in his hometown of Detroit thought he would grow up to become a preacher. But law enforcement was his dream, so he chased it. He graduated from the Slidell Police Department’s basic reserve police academy in 2014. He also spent time as an officer at Loyola University. “(Mitchum) was a dedicated police professional who had a heart of service for the Tulane community,” Tulane officials said in a statement Saturday.
Mitchum, who was in uniform at the time of the shooting, was taken to the University Medical Center by paramedics and was pronounced dead soon after.
“The thing I was most proud of was seeing the escort he got to the hospital,” Eaglin said of how the the police cleared the way for the ambulance on the interstate. “He deserves that. If you could pick how you could go, that would probably be what Mitch would have picked with the security. He loved protecting people, like the children who were inside that gym. We don’t know what could have happened if this person had got inside the gym with a gun.”
Gunman was refused entry to basketball game, argued with staffer, pulled weapon
Mitchum often publicly commented on the state of law enforcement in the country. Just two days before his death, he wrote on Twitter that he supported requirements that officers wear body cameras and favored officers being decertified if they performed their jobs poorly or were shown to be racist.
On Thursday, he retweeted a message from Vice President Kamala Harris supporting the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which is named for the man killed by Minneapolis police in 2020 and aims to overhaul qualified immunity for law enforcement, among other things.
In their own statement, Carver officials called Mitchum “a fixture” at school sporting events and noted how he sacrificed his life to carry out his duty.
“It is with a heavy heart … (that) we honor his memory,” Carver’s statement said.
“It’s a tragic situation for … everyone who had to experience this,” said the chairman of Easton’s governing board, David Garland.
Advocate reporters Ramon Antonio Vargas and Della Hasselle contributed to this report.