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Oklahoma parents say son needed help, instead Custer County sheriff's deputies shot him

Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, 18, died Dec. 21 in an incident with the Custer County Sheriff's Office. His parents say the shooting wasn't justified and dispute the Sheriff Bruce People's version of events.
by Jennifer Palmer Modified: February 2, 2014 at 10:00 am •  Published: February 2, 2014
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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.

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by Jennifer Palmer
Investigative Reporter
Jennifer Palmer joined The Oklahoman staff in 2008 and, after five years on the business desk, is now digging deeper through investigative work. She's been recognized with awards in public service reporting and personal column writing. Prior to...
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