Tulsa fire­works stand owner’s son will face man­slaugh­ter charge in fa­tal July 4 shoot­ing

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - METRO | STATE - BY SAMAN­THA VICENT Tulsa World saman­tha.vicent @tulsaworld.com

TULSA — The at­tor­ney for a man charged in a teen’s death dur­ing an al­leged theft at­tempt at a west Tulsa fire­works stand on In­de­pen­dence Day said it was an “out­ra­geous de­ci­sion” to pros­e­cute his client, but an at­tor­ney rep­re­sent­ing the teenager’s fam­ily said the charge is only the be­gin­ning of hold­ing the man ac­count­able.

The Tulsa County Dis­trict At­tor­ney’s Of­fice filed a first-de­gree man­slaugh­ter charge Fri­day morn­ing against Johnny Mize Jr., 32, un­der two the­o­ries: that he fa­tally shot Jake Ul­rich, 15, dur­ing a pe­riod of anger or that Mize’s de­ci­sion to shoot Ul­rich was an over­re­ac­tion to Ul­rich and his cousin, Jack Ul­rich, steal­ing from the fire­works stand owned by Mize’s fa­ther.

Au­thor­i­ties said they found Jake Ul­rich’s body in­side the cab of Jack Ul­rich’s truck, which had been aban­doned in the 6500 block of West Edi­son Street. The fire­works stand was in the 600 block of South 65th West Av­enue.

Jack Ul­rich, 27, faces a mis­de­meanor lar­ceny count in the in­ci­dent. First As­sis­tant Dis­trict At­tor­ney Erik Gray­less said the value of what he’s ac­cused of steal­ing, $600, no longer meets the thresh­old for a felony charge be­cause of a change in the law that took ef­fect this month.

Tulsa-based at­tor­ney Nathan Mil­ner, who rep­re­sents the Ul­rich fam­ily, told the Tulsa World the fam­ily is pleased to see charges filed against Mize. Jail records in­di­cate Mize posted $50,000 bond Fri­day af­ter­noon and was re­leased from cus­tody.

“We’ve been adamant that this was un­jus­ti­fied and un­war­ranted,” Mil­ner said of the shoot­ing. “This (in­ci­dent) was a lar­ceny at best — a mis­de­meanor.”

How­ever, de­fense at­tor­ney Kevin Adams said the pros­e­cu­tion is blam­ing the wrong per­son for Jake Ul­rich’s death. He said the ev­i­dence clearly shows Mize is in­no­cent of any crime and al­leged the Dis­trict At­tor­ney’s Of­fice seems to be “just an­tiSe­cond Amend­ment” based on its han­dling of the case and oth­ers such as that of for­mer Tulsa po­lice of­fi­cer Betty Shelby.

“I can­not be­lieve they did this to the Mize fam­ily,” Adams said. “It’s mind-blow­ing that this is the de­ci­sion they’ve de­cided to make.”

A probable cause af­fi­davit states Mize told Tulsa County sher­iff’s de­tec­tives that he ob­served two peo­ple in a green truck steal a box of fire­works, which prompted him to jump over the counter and point a gun at the peo­ple to “scare” them. Mize said he thought some­one fired a shot at him be­cause he heard a “pop” sound, and told deputies he fired af­ter hear­ing the noise but wasn’t sure what, if any­thing, he hit.

Mize said he then jumped into the bed of the pickup, but told de­tec­tives the driver of the truck tried to swerve in or­der to eject Mize from the area. He said he shot out one of the green truck’s tires as a re­sult, and that the driver fled af­ter the truck came to a stop.

Jack Ul­rich was in­ter­viewed about the events July 6 and re­leased with­out in­ci­dent.

Al­though Mize said he re­mem­bered the driver, later iden­ti­fied as Jack Ul­rich, yelling af­ter the truck stopped, he said he couldn’t re­mem­ber de­tails be­cause he may have “blacked out.” Mize’s fa­ther, Johnny Mize Sr., said in his in­ter­view that he saw a flash come from the green truck be­fore his son fired at it.

Mize Sr. said he also tried to jump in the truck bed but had been un­able to when it fled the fire­works stand “at a high rate of speed.” Once he caught up with Mize Jr., Mize Sr. said both loaded the stolen fire­works from the green truck into their ve­hi­cle and drove back to the stand.

“No­body likes to be stolen from, and we un­der­stand that, but there are rules about guns and when to use them,” Mil­ner said Fri­day.

Gray­less said the sher­iff’s of­fice’s af­fi­davit gave the state cause to ques­tion Mize Jr.’s ac­tions in the al­ter­ca­tion both due to his emo­tional state and what he said the Ul­rich cousins did. He said the state’s sec­ond man­slaugh­ter the­ory, which isn’t used as of­ten as a ba­sis to pros­e­cute, fits well for a sit­u­a­tion such as the one in­volv­ing Mize Jr.

“I’m not speak­ing about the facts of this case, but just to give the eas­i­est ex­am­ple, two kids walk into a con­ve­nience store. One of them steals gum, and they at­tempt to flee,” Gray­less said. “The store owner shoots one of them. We’d all agree that was an un­nec­es­sary and over­reach­ing act to pre­vent that stolen gum. In other words, he took it too far.”

Adams said he and his co-coun­sel, Stephen Lee, will rep­re­sent the Mizes even if they can’t af­ford to pay them be­cause “this case is that out­ra­geous” and doesn’t be­lieve “some nerd with a law de­gree” should tell a work­ing­class fam­ily how to de­fend their busi­ness from crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity.

“My guy was do­ing the right thing try­ing to pro­tect him­self,” Adams said.

[PHOTO BY IAN MAULE, TULSA WORLD]

Johnny Mize’s fire­works stand on July 5.

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