This undated file photo released by the Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections shows Harry Mitts. (AP Photo/Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, File)
by Julie Carr Smith
AP Statehouse Correspondent
LUCASVILLE, Ohio (AP) — A White gunman who spewed racial slurs before fatally shooting a Black man and a police officer in a 1994 rampage that prosecutors called one of Ohio’s worst crimes was put to death Wednesday with the state’s last dose of its execution drug.
Before the drug began to flow, Harry Mitts Jr. asked the families of his victims — John Bryant and Garfield Heights police Sgt. Dennis Glivar — to forgive him and not to hold hatred for him in their hearts.
Glivar’s widow, Debbie, wept as the 61-year-old Mitts said from a prison gurney that he’d carried the burden of his crimes with him for 19 years. “I had no business doing what I did,” he said.
After the execution, Debbie Glivar said, “I won’t forgive him, ever.”
Mitts was pronounced dead at 10:39 a.m. by lethal injection. He made snoring noises initially as the powerful sedative pentobarbital was administered. Prisons director Gary Mohr said the state is on track to tell a court next week how its executions will proceed now that its drug supply has expired.
Mitts was convicted of aggravated murder and attempted murder in the August 1994 rampage against random neighbors and responding police officers at his apartment complex in a Cleveland suburb.
Wielding a gun with a laser sight and later other weapons, he first shouted racial epithets and killed Bryant, a neighbor’s boyfriend who was Black, then shot and killed Glivar, who was White, as he responded to the scene. Mitts also shot and wounded two other police officers.
Thomas Kaiser, Glivar’s partner and a witness to Wednesday’s execution, said Mitts’ death did little to blunt the damage the lengthy case has caused.
“I don’t believe justice has been served,” said Kaiser, another of Mitts’ shooting victims. “Justice should not take 19 years for a case that had nothing — there was no ineffective counsel, there was no chance there was another suspect, none of the normal defenses that you hear. There was none of that in this case.”
Mitts had told the Ohio Parole Board — which, along with Gov. John Kasich had rejected his pleas for mercy — that he had drunk heavily because he was distraught over his divorce and had likely shot Bryant to draw police to his home in hopes they would shoot and kill him.
He said he wasn’t a racist and didn’t remember directing slurs at Bryant before shooting him. He said he couldn’t say why he didn’t shoot two white neighbors he encountered ahead of Bryant.
Bryant’s sister, Johnnal, said Wednesday that Mitts’ execution gave her at least some closure after 19 years — but she can’t yet grant his wish to forgive a crime based on the color of her brother’s skin.
“No, I don’t forgive him,” she said as she fought back tears. “Maybe one day I will, but right now I don’t.”
At his clemency hearing, Mitts had pointed to a virtually clean record before and after the day of the shootings and said he had found God in prison. After his conviction, he spoke of receiving a Bible from Glivar’s mother, Helen, and sister and said that the two had succeeded in getting him to seek repentance.
Helen Glivar sat quietly during the execution and declined to step to a podium afterward to address reporters.
Asked afterward if she had anything to say about her son’s murder and his killer’s death, she said only: “It is finished.”