CLINTON — At 18 years old, the Goodblankets' eldest son stood larger than most grown men: 6-foot-8 and at least 215 pounds.
And on the night of Dec. 21, a misunderstanding with his girlfriend spun Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket into a destructive fit, smashing windows and doors and knocking over the family's Christmas tree. Melissa and Wilbur Goodblanket feared he would hurt himself, so they called 911.
The law enforcement response that followed would leave their son lifeless on the floor of their Clinton home, riddled with gunshots.
The Goodblankets' version of events differs from a description given by Custer County Sheriff Bruce Peoples, who says his deputies were justified in shooting the young man. Two deputies, Dillon Mach and Chance Avery, are on leave while the incident is investigated, and Avery is recovering from an amputated finger — caused when he shot his hand during a struggle with the young man, Peoples said.
An investigation by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is underway. Once the report is submitted, the Custer County District Attorney's office will determine if the shooting was justified. Meanwhile, the sheriff wouldn't make public any police reports or 911 tapes regarding the incident.
‘An emotional episode'
Melissa Goodblanket said her son, whose name translated into English means Red Bird, was diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder in the ninth grade and continued to struggle with his mental health. But he graduated high school, was planning to attend the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal College and had a girlfriend.
On Dec. 21, a snowy Saturday, the family was getting ready for church and Mah-hi-vist was spending time at their home with his girlfriend. She asked for a ride to Weatherford, and Melissa Goodblanket agreed. For some reason, Goodblanket recalls, her son misunderstood and thought his girlfriend was breaking up with him.
“He thought she was leaving for good ... he couldn't shake it,” Goodblanket said. “He went into an episode, an emotional episode where he became distraught, confused, angry.”
The teen paced in and out of the house, breaking windows and doors. He carried kitchen knives into the front yard. At one point, he cut his hand, Melissa Goodblanket said. Her younger son was scared. They called 911 — a decision they now regret.
An ambulance arrived first, Wilbur Goodblanket said, and soon after, a Custer County sheriff's deputy. Mah-hi-vist turned and went inside the house.
When more officers arrived, Melissa Goodblanket, her husband and younger son were outside; they huddled inside a truck to keep warm, blasting the heater. But first, Wilbur Goodblanket pleaded with the deputies: “Please don't shoot my son.”
What happens next is in dispute. Peoples and the Goodblankets agree that Mah-hi-vist and his girlfriend, Noami Barron, were inside the house. But Peoples said the teen had “barricaded himself in the house with two family members.” Melissa Goodblanket said Barron was there willingly, as well as an elderly grandmother who lived downstairs.
According to the sheriff, the deputies entered through a broken bedroom window and immediately encountered the teen, who threw one knife and attacked with another. The deputies used a Taser on him, but it had no effect. So they fired their handguns.
“He got so close on top of one of my deputies — and the individual he was dealing with is 6-foot-8, 230, 240 pounds,” Peoples said. “The deputy was holding him off him and had his pistol in the other (hand) and shot his own fingers off during the fight.”
But the Goodblankets, who could see from inside the truck but couldn't hear, say that's not what happened.
The deputies did enter through a broken bedroom window, but came out 15 seconds later, Wilbur Goodblanket recalls. When they came out, one deputy was holding his right hand, making a fist and bleeding. He got into the ambulance.
Goodblanket said he saw the uninjured deputy, a second deputy and two state troopers go into the house through the bedroom window, guns drawn.
“Right after that, our son's girlfriend comes out running out of the garage screaming ‘Mom, they shot Bird,'” Wilbur Goodblanket said. The girl collapsed in the driveway and started throwing up.
He could see the officers milling around in his living room, and 30 minutes later, an EMT went in, he said. Finally, a deputy came over the truck and told the Goodblankets their son “didn't make it.”
“He just wanted help,” Wilbur Goodblanket said of his son. “They wouldn't come out and get us. It happened so fast. They didn't try to talk to him. They came in our home and shot him.”
The Goodblankets found blood in the teen's bedroom, leading them to believe the deputy injured his hand on the window, not a gunshot. Their son's body lay in the living room. They counted seven gunshot wounds.
Investigators released the teen's body the day after Christmas, the Goodblankets said. They buried him Dec. 28.