NEW ORLEANS — “He would always say, ‘I want to be an officer, I want to be an officer. That was his calling, to protect and serve,” said Jason Bertrand, a longtime friend of Officer Martinus Mitchum.
And it was his passion to protect and serve that would ultimately cost 38-year-old Mitchum his life.
Mitchum was a Tulane University police officer and a reserve deputy constable. He was working security during a basketball game at George Washington Carver High School in New Orleans, Louisiana Friday night when 35-year-old John Shallerhorn allegedly showed up.
According to police, Shallerhorn tried to get into the game without a mask and got into an argument with a school staffer. That’s when Mitchum intervened, trying to deescalate the situation. Police say during their interaction, Shallerhorn pulled out a gun and fatally shot Mitchum in his chest.
Bertrand, who’s been friends with Mitchum for more than a decade, said Mitchum made the ultimate sacrifice to protect others.
“I feel like Mitch saved lives last night because we don’t know what that gentleman really was coming in there to do. There was kids in there, families in there. What could you be going into a high basketball with a gun?” said Bertrand.
Mitchum’s friends tell WGNO that he was deeply involved in the high school basketball community. They say he served as a coach and mentor for the student athletes, and say it was his kindness that made people gravitate towards him.
“Mitch would keep kids that needed him around him, and I always wondered why kids would gravitate to him, and that’s because he was always there for them,” said Wanto Joseph.
The Tulane University Police Department released a statement about Mitchum’s death that reads in part:
“We are deeply saddened by the senseless and tragic death of TUPD Corporal Martinus Mitchum. Corporal Mitchum was a dedicated police professional who had a heart of service for the Tulane community.”
Mitchum had a heart for service, which his friends say was made of gold. When asked how they would remember Officer Mitchum, one word came to mind: hero.
“Anyone who could put their life to do something like that is a hero to me,” said Joseph.
“He’s a hero to me. Kind of like a guardian,” said Bertrand.
We reached out to Mitchum’s family, who said they are shocked about his death. They said that they are so proud of him and that he loved being an officer.
Shallerhorn is currently in custody and he’s facing charges of armed robbery and first-degree murder of a police officer. If convicted, he could face life imprisonment or the death penalty.