NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Investigators are trying to determine why the suspect in the killing of a law enforcement officer was trying to force his way into a high school basketball game the night the officer was killed, New Orleans Police Superintendent Shaun Ferguson said Monday.
The suspect had struck a worker in the face after refusing to comply with entry requirements at the Friday night game, which included handing over tickets and submitting to a “COVID protocol” that included a temperature check, Ferguson said. He said it’s unclear whether the suspect was refusing to don a mask.
Tulane Police Cpl. Martinus Mitchum, who was working an off-duty security detail at the Friday night game, went to intervene. Ferguson said the suspect, identified as John Shallerhorn, 35, pulled a weapon from his waistband and fired twice as Mitchum and the unidentified worker tried to escort him from the building. Mitchum was hit in the chest and died later at a hospital.
Shallerhorn did not resist as he was quickly arrested by other officers working the detail, Ferguson said. “After he fired two shots, one of which struck Mitch in the chest, he walked outside of that building, tossed his handgun to the ground and threw his hands in the air and he immediately gave himself up,” Ferguson said. “No answer to the motives as of yet.”
Ferguson said he believes Mitchum died a hero. “I can only imagine what could have happened had he made entry into that game, where we could have had many, many more victims.”
Other witnesses are being sought, Ferguson said. “We really do not know why Shallerhorn was attempting to enter that game,” the superintendent said. “We don’t know, have not received any information as to whether or not he had any connection to any of the teams or the student body.”
Ferguson said jewelry taken during an earlier armed robbery nearby was found on Shallerhorn. He faced charges of first-degree murder of a police officer and armed robbery. Online jail records show no court date set and it was unclear if he had an attorney who could speak for him.
Mitchum was also a deputy constable with the Second City Court. Tulane Police Chief Kirk Bouyelas joined Ferguson and Constable Edwin Shorty in praising Mitchum for his work as a law enforcement officer as well as his work with students at Landry-Walker High School, where he worked security and filled other roles.
“He was an amazing individual,” Shorty said, saying Mitchum was known for “reaching into his own pocket” to help students who might need money for a prom or an athletic event.