Former West Monroe Police Chief Johnny Mitchell, who as a State Police trooper in the 1950s lost a kidney and part of his liver from a gunshot wound, died Tuesday at Glenwood Regional Medical Center.
He was 87.
Mitchell’s son, assistant district attorney Jay Mitchell, said his father had broken a hip late last year and had struggled to recover from surgery in December. He developed pneumonia and had been hospitalized since late last week. Mitchell was tested for COVID-19, but those tests were negative.
“I’ve always been proud to be his son,” Mitchell said. “He had a great life.”
A standout athlete at Ouachita Parish High School, Mitchell earned a scholarship to play football for LSU, but his time in Baton Rouge was cut short. He broke a leg as a freshman and returned to Ouachita Parish to play football at then-Northeast Louisiana State College. He played for several years there.
Following his time at Northeast, Mitchell joined the State Police where, according to his son, he served for a spell as one of then-Gov. Earl Long’s guards. He suffered the gunshot wound that took a kidney and part of his liver in an encounter with a criminal some time around 1956.
Mitchell became chief of police in West Monroe in 1963, some three years before Bert Hatten was elected mayor. Hatten served as West Monroe mayor from 1966-1978.
“He was already chief when I came into office,” Hatten said. “He agreed to stay on board and was very honest and a very good police chief.”
“We remained close after I left office,” Hatten explained. “We even had a few business dealings together. We didn’t talk every day, but we talked at least every other day.”
“He was a good friend, and I will miss him,” Hatten added.
Mitchell left the West Monroe Police Department in 1979 to run for sheriff. Laymon Godwin was elected that year.
Outside of law enforcement, Mitchell was a Shriner and longtime member of the Barack Shrine Temple in Monroe.
He also served on the board of directors of the Shriner Hospital in Memphis.
Mitchell and his wife, Mary Sue, were married for 65 years.
Besides his wife, Mitchell is survived by his son Jay and his wife, West Monroe Mayor Staci Mitchell; his daughter Johnette Mintz and her husband, Steve; four grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements are under the direction of Mulhearn Funeral Home, West Monroe.