People who knew a city employee gunned down over the weekend described his killing as a random act committed against someone who opposed violence and devoted his time to helping Fort Wayne youths.
Gregory D. Mitchell, 58, was found shot to death Saturday morning at his home in the 1900 block of South Clinton Street. The Allen County Coroner's Office has ruled his death the county's 16th homicide of 2012.
“He was against violence, he was against drugs,” said Bennie Lewis, director of the city-run Albert G. Jennings Center for youth. “When you're against violence and something happens to you violently, there's something wrong with that.”
Mitchell was with the parks department on a part- or full-time basis for nearly 10 years and ran the Jennings Center as a facilities and neighborhood programs coordinator for the last three years, Fort Wayne Parks & Recreation Director Al Moll said.
“One of the best things I can say about Greg is, he was always trying to keep kids on the right track,” Moll said.
He spent much of his time coaching youth basketball teams, but Lewis said he could count on Mitchell to tackle almost any task, from paperwork to picking up food from the Community Harvest Food Bank for the center's school lunch program.
“He was such a big part of what we do here, we've got to cover the loss. There's so many things that he was responsible for,” Lewis said.
Mitchell's death also raises questions about why someone would want to kill a man described as well-liked and positive.
“We've been interviewing family members, friends, co-workers, trying to establish why someone would want to harm this individual, let along kill him,” said Raquel Foster, a spokeswoman for the Fort Wayne Police Department.
Less than halfway through 2012, Allen County is on pace for its deadliest year since 2005, when 31 homicides were reported countywide. And other unusual cases of violence include the March shooting of local attorney David Kuker and shots fired into the house of another lawyer from the same firm, Faegre Baker Daniels.
“It has been an unusual year,” Foster said.
A half dozen misdemeanor charges for battery, resisting law enforcement and driving without a valid license are listed in online court records under the name Gregory D. Mitchell since 1988, but Lewis said he did not have concerns about Mitchell's past and was not aware of any criminal record.
Mitchell has three sons who attend Wayne High School, said Jody Foulks, 28, a parks department employee who said Mitchell starting mentoring him when he was a junior in high school.
“He was always a very positive and uplifting person. He always wanted you to strive to be the best that you can be,” Foulks said.
The killing comes as an even greater shock because it happened in Mitchell's own home, Lewis said.
“The safest place you'd expect to be at the end of the day would be your own home,” he said. “If you ain't safe at your home, where are you going to be safe at?”
Frank Suarez, a spokesman for Mayor Tom Henry, said the city typically does not make public statements about the death of an employee. An internal memo would likely be circulated informing city employees of Mitchell's death, Suarez said.