Melissa Goodblanket’s opening speech at Friday’s rally outlined what happened in the hour preceding the murder of her son by Custer County Sheriff’s Deputies, and a following speech (shown above) outlined the traumatic events that followed.
On September 26, 2014 a peaceful protest was held on the south side of Oklahoma’s State Capitol building in honor of Mah-hi-Vist (“Redbird” in Cheyenne) Touchingcloud Goodblanket and other victims of police brutality.
The teen was killed in his home on December 21, 2013 after the parents – Wilbur and Melissa Goodblanket, of Clinton – contacted 911 in fear that their son would harm himself during an emotional Oppositional Defiance Disorder episode. Mah-hi-Vist had become confused after his girlfriend had asked his parents for a ride to nearby Weatherford; he instead thought she was ending the relationship, and reacted by knocking over the family’s Christmas tree, breaking a window in his bedroom, and cutting his hand. Their younger son became increasingly worried about his older brother, telling his mom, “he’s really upset, I think he may hurt himself”. His mother stood inside talking to a 911 operator, requesting an assessment from paramedics, as Wilbur was outside calming down Mah-hi-Vist.
Two Deputies – Chance Avery and one who is presumed to be Dillon Mach – arrived on scene and entered through the broken bedroom window. By this time, Mah-hi-Vist had calmed down and was sitting in the kitchen with his girlfriend, Noami Barron. Within ten seconds of the first entrance into the home, Officer Avery had injured his hand, had left the home through the same bedroom window, and was taken away by paramedics. Another unnamed officer arrived on the scene. The father of the teen asked officers, if needed, to only tase his son – not to shoot him. From their viewpoint the parents could clearly see what was occurring inside through living room and kitchen windows. They claim no threat was made against officers and that their son was not carrying a weapon.
Within forty-five seconds of the second entry, Mah-hi-Vist had been tasered twice and shot seven times, including one shot to the back of the head. According to witness accounts of Noami Barron, who was with him at the time of his death, and that of his parents, the teen was unarmed. Police refused to tell the parents of their son’s death, but they were instead informed by the screams of his girlfriend, who ran out of the house, in shock, saying, “they shot Bird”.
The two officers were placed on paid leave following the shooting, but were soon returned to their jobs. In August, Mach and Avery were awarded Medals of Honor “in recognition of their performance above and beyond the Call of Duty, while disregarding their own personal safety and exhibiting exceptional courage in a life threatening situation.”
Speakers at the rally included friends, family, and supporters of the Goodblanket family. In attendance were several members of the Anonymous/Occupy Wall Street movements, 22-year OKCPD veteran/activist/author Paula Sophia Schonauer, and activists from S.P.I.R.I.T. (Society to Protect Indigenous Rights & Indigenous Treaties).
Grayson English of OU Students for a Stateless Society said in an interview on Friday that he learned about the murder of Redbird Goodblanket soon after witnessing the brutal beating of Will Cannon . English claims the only way to end police brutality is to rid ourselves of the present form of law enforcement entirely, and to instead “allow voluntary alternatives – such as community defense associations and private protection firms – to emerge according to the particular needs of communities”.
Towards the end of the rally, friends and family members gathered around a drum circle to perform the family song of the Goodblankets. As we stood there, two cardinals flew above us and landed just under the statue atop the State Capitol – referred to as “The Guardian”.