DC man murdered for intervening during a harassment incident

A few months ago, I posted a story about a man who intervened when another man street harassed his wife and then the harasser murdered him. Sadly, I have a new, similar story to share. A man who witnessed another man harassing a woman in Washington, DC, this week intervened, and the harasser murdered him. So devastating.

Bill Mitchell, Image from the Washington Post

From the Washington Post:

Bill Mitchell was the kind of man who stepped up instead of shying away, the kind of person who would help someone even if he didn’t know them, his friends and family say.

So on Wednesday night, after he had seen the play “Cymbeline” at the Shakespeare Theatre with his mother, he hopped on the Metro to the New York Avenue Station, walked home along North Capitol Street and Florida Avenue NW and saw a woman who needed help. Mitchell, 33, got involved.

He exchanged words and possibly tussled with an unknown assailant who was hassling the woman and who then shot and killed Mitchell.

“There was some sort of altercation, and we have to figure out what that interaction was,” said D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5), who said he had spoken with police and witnesses. “He may have intervened in something, being a Good Samaritan.”

….

“We hope that his senseless death can help in some way to make the area he lived in a safer place,” the Mitchell family said in a statement.

Mitchell’s younger brother made a plea for information.

“There may come a time when police ask for the public’s help,” Brian Mitchell said. “Please contact the police if you know anything. It was my brother today. It could be your brother, son, sister, mother or daughter tomorrow.”

I applaud Mitchell for being a good bystander and I’m sad that the incident ended this wayūüė¶ Guns = terrible.

[Thanks to loyal reader MRH for the story tip]

Update: Martha Langelan, author of Back Off!: How to Confront and Stop Sexual Harassment and Harassers, and a brilliant community activist who continues to give workshops in the Washington, DC, area about how to respond to and end sexual harassment just emailed me with her thoughts on this story:

The Bill Mitchell case is heart-breaking.

It’s¬†so important¬†to teach people¬†the¬†nonviolent confrontation techniques that work¬†— to know what to do and how to do it, to stop harassment without having the harasser escalate into physical violence.

Male-to-male confrontations can escalate very quickly.¬†We need men — all the good guys on the planet — to be our allies, but if we want men to intervene,¬†we really need to teach them how to do it. What they say, and how they say it, can make the difference between life and death.

Please tell the men you speak with to intervene, but to PLEASE do so using nonviolent confrontation.¬†The “Voice of God” technique could have saved Bill’s life here:¬†¬†stand at least 30-40 feet away and yell, “Stop hitting her,” or “stop hassling her,” and¬†“leave her alone, we see you, we’re calling the cops,” then call 911 and stay on the scene, from a safe distance, until the police arrive.

When a¬†man is confronting a man he does not know, it is dangerous for him to get right up in the harasser’s space.¬† Please intervene from a distance.

If you¬†have any reason to believe the harasser might have a knife or gun, both men and women should do the same thing¬†— use the “Voice of God” to interrupt the harasser from a safe distance, and¬†call 911 immediately.

You can¬†also¬†gather bystanders beside¬†you, at a¬†safe distance, and ask them to call 911, too — (a) you don’t want to let others to walk into the middle of a dangerous situation, (b) a group of witnesses can be a deterrent in itself, to de-escalate the situation, and (c) the more calls, the faster the police will get there.

It really breaks my heart to see people like Bill Mitchell get hurt or killed. We need to teach every man on the planet how to intervene more safely.

2 Responses to DC man murdered for intervening during a harassment incident

  1. wow, thank you for the tips. this is so very sad.

  2. Lauren says:

    Martha, thank you so much for sharing your insight on what to do to help intervene with street harassment. I’ve never heard of the Word of God approach before, but I promise I’ll be sharing it with the world now.

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