Columbus plans to pay $1 million to the family of a woman killed by an undercover Vice officer in August 2018, according to documents filed in Franklin County Probate Court. The payout would be the largest in city history.
The family of Donna Castleberry filed a wrongful death lawsuit in U.S. District Court in August 2019 against the city of Columbus, former Police Chief Kim Jacobs and former Columbus Police officer Andrew Mitchell.
The settlement does not cover Mitchell, who remains a defendant in the civil suit and in criminal cases against him in Franklin County Common Pleas Court and U.S. District Court in Columbus.
Timeline: Investigation Of Columbus Police Vice Unit
In August 2018, the 31-year veteran officer shot and killed Castleberry in the back seat of his unmarked car. According to prosecutors, Castleberry stabbed Mitchell in the hand while he arrested her on prostitution charges, then jumped to the back seat of the car, where Mitchell shot her six times.
However, Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien says Castleberry didn’t believe Mitchell was an officer, and “expressed the belief that she was being kidnapped and would be raped.” At the time, Mitchell was wearing plain clothes – a practice the department since ceased – and was not carrying the proper I.D.
Mitchell retired in bad standing from the Columbus Division of Police in March 2019 after being charged by federal prosecutors on multiple charges unrelated to the Castleberry shooting. The FBI alleges Mitchell kidnapped victims under the pretense of arrest and forced them to have sex in exchange for their freedom.
A federal grand jury indicted Mitchell on three federal counts of depriving individuals of their civil rights while acting under the color of law; two counts of witness tampering; one count of making false statements to federal agreements; two counts of obstruction of justice; and one count of destroying or removing property to prevent seizure.
Mitchell has pleaded not guilty to all charges. His state trial is scheduled to start in late August. Currently, he is being held at a federal correction center in Northwest Ohio.
With the $1 million to Castleberry’s family, the city of Columbus will have paid a total of $6.4 million to settle police-related lawsuits in the last decade alone.