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LUCASVILLE, Ohio — Authorities on Wednesday executed Harry Mitts, Jr., with the sedative pentobarbital, likely the last time the state will use the drug.
Mitts, 61, was put to death for killing a police officer and a neighbor’s boyfriend during an hours-long shooting rampage in 1994 in and outside his Cleveland-area apartment building.
A national shortage of pentobarbital may force the state to again change its lethal injection protocol before the next scheduled execution on Nov. 14. The drug’s European manufacturers object to its use in executions.
“We have been talking pretty extensively,” said Gary Mohr, director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. “We are looking at whether we even need to change the protocol or not, quite frankly. We anticipate finalizing that in about a week.”
He said the federal court where a case challenging the execution process is pending is the forum where that should be discussed. He declined to say what alternatives are under consideration. Ohio’s current protocol has a back-up plan that has never been used in which two massive doses of different drugs would be injected directly into the inmate’s muscles.
Before the drug began flowing at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, Mitts turned his head while lying on the lethal injection gurney and looked directly through glass at some victim family members witnessing his execution.
“To John Bryant and Dennis Glivar’s families, I’m so sorry for taking your loved ones’ lives,” he told them. “I had no business doing what I did, and I’ve been carrying that burden for 19 years. Please don’t carry that hatred for me with you in your hearts.”
As Mr. Bryant’s sister, Johnnal, sobbed, Mitts urged them instead to welcome Jesus Christ into their lives.
“I’m sorry for having taken your loved ones’ lives,” he said again, “and please forgive me.”
During a recent interview with the Ohio Parole Board, Mitts said he was trying to commit suicide by police, shooting someone with whom he had no quarrel to draw Garfield Heights police to his building to shoot him. After being shot himself, he said he changed his mind and returned fire in a fight for survival.
Mitts, who was white, apparently targeted John A. Bryant, 28, a neighbor’s boyfriend, because he was black. Witnesses recounted that he spewed racial epithets as he shot Mr. Bryant while not harming his girlfriend, who was white, or the white neighbors who came to Mr. Bryant’s aid.
During the standoff, Mitts killed police Sgt. Dennis Glivar, 44, wounded two other officers who survived, and then picked up the slain officer’s shotgun and began firing randomly into the walls of apartments.
Despite Mitts’ request, Ms. Glivar’s widow, Debbie, and Johnnal Bryant said after the execution that they could not forgive him.
“I know it’s wrong, but I still have hatred towards him,” Ms. Bryant said. “For him to kill somebody because of the color of his skin is just senseless. … So no, I don’t forgive him. Maybe one day I will, but right now I don’t.”
Also witnessing was Capt. Tom Kaiser, who on that 1994 night was a police lieutenant and Mr. Glivar’s squad car partner and friend. Mr. Kaiser was shot twice by Mitts.
He said after the execution that he doesn’t buy the suicide-by-police story.
“I don’t know what was going on in his head that day, but I’d have to say ‘no,’” he said. “He had ample opportunity to allow that [suicide by police] to happen. There’s many times that he could have come out of his apartment, and no doubt that would have happened. For anyone to even think that’s possible, it just doesn’t fit the facts.”
Once the execution medical team began the drug’s flow, he seemed to fall asleep, began to deep breathe more deeply, and began to snore. After he appeared to stop breathing, his mouth continued to move before he became still.
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