LUCASVILLE, Ohio — A white gunman who spewed racial slurs before fatally shooting a black man and a police officer in a 1994 rampage that prosecutors called one of the worst Ohio has seen was executed Wednesday with the state’s last use of its execution drug.
Harry Mitts Jr. asked the families of his victims to forgive him, saying he had carried the burden of his crimes with him for 19 years. “I had no business doing what I did,” he said in a last statement to six witnesses representing his victims. Two clergy members and a friend were also in attendance.
Mitts Jr., 61, was pronounced dead at 10:39 a.m. by lethal injection of the powerful sedative pentobarbital at the state prison in Lucasville after years of acknowledging his crimes and repenting. The state’s supply of pentobarbital is expiring, and a new execution method will be announced later.
Mitts was convicted of aggravated murder and attempted murder in the August 1994 rampage against random neighbors and responding police officers at his apartment complex in a Cleveland suburb.
Wielding a gun with a laser sight and later other weapons, Mitts first shouted racial epithets and killed a neighbor’s black boyfriend, John Bryant, and then shot and killed white Garfield Heights police Sgt. Dennis Glivar as he responded to the scene. Mitts also shot and wounded two other police officers.
The Ohio Parole Board and Republican Gov. John Kasich had denied Mitts’ pleas for mercy.
Mitts, at his clemency hearing, had pointed to a virtually clean record before and after the day of the shootings and said he had found God in prison. After his conviction, he spoke of receiving a Bible from Glivar’s mother and sister and a letter expressing their forgiveness and urging him to seek repentance.
Mitts told the Ohio Parole Board he had drunk heavily because he was distraught over his divorce and had likely shot Bryant to draw police to his home in hopes they would shoot and kill him. He said he wasn’t a racist and didn’t remember directing racial slurs at Bryant before shooting him. He said he couldn’t say why he didn’t shoot two white neighbors he encountered ahead of Bryant.
Prosecutors argued that, with the murders, multiple shootings and additional death threats carried out that day, Mitts “exhibited complete disregard for the lives of officers and innocent bystanders at the scene.”
“That further tragedy did not result from the bedlam that Mitts created on August 14, 1994, is in many respects a miracle,” a clemency report said.
With Ohio’s supply of pentobarbital expiring, the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has said it expects to announce its new execution method by Oct. 4. Pentobarbital is no longer available because its manufacturer has put it off limits to states for executions.