Tulsa fireworks stand owner’s son will face manslaughter charge in fatal July 4 shooting
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.
Johnny Mize’s fireworks stand on July 5.