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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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.”

Accounts disagree

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.


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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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