DUTY TO ACT: Mother hopes state bill will become law after her son’s death


LANSING, Mich. (WLNS)– City officials put a guard rail at the spot where Brandon Mitchner died in 2014, in hopes of preventing another tragic accident. But there is something else that his mother Shirley says could help people and could’ve made a difference for her son that night:
a bill that would keep people from standing by while they could save a life.

She hopes state legislators will make it happen.

Shirley is not the same person she was before her youngest son died.

“I’m trying to get there, but I’m not there,” she says, “and I’ll never be the person I once was, because a piece of my heart was taken away.”

In the years since his death, she grew even more concerned about other people in similar tragic situations– those left helpless while other people stood by.

“There are so many people that are being left at the hospital, left on a bench, left outside, hotel wherever by their friends instead of calling 911.”

Now she wants change on a statewide level and hopes to see it happen with Michigan House Bill 4507, which addresses one simple question.

“If someone sees a person in imminent harm or danger,” Representative Julie Brixie says, “do they have a responsibility to act and call 911 and seek assistance for that person?”

Brixie introduced the bill in 2019 after she heard Brandon’s story.

“You know, many mothers have [a] similar feeling where as a mom, and you encounter another family, another mom that lost their child in a circumstance that perhaps could have been prevented,” Brixie says. “It’s heartbreaking and it’s very very sad and tragic, and you really feel for the other person.”

If passed, Michigan would join a handful of other states with similar laws. Those who fail to act to save another person would face a gross negligence charge. The bill hasn’t gone all the way through the house yet but Brixie is confident it will find support from other state leaders.

Lansing Police Chief Daryl Green says imploring other people to act and step in would make things a lot easier.

“We want people to go home, we want them to be safe,” he says. “And certainly when they have friends or associates that see their friends and other associates in danger, we believe that it’s the best thing to do, to assist that person and get them home safe as well.”

The bill won’t bring Brandon back, but Shirley says it would allow his legacy to live on even more.

“If this just saved one life,” Shirley says, “then my son’s death will not have been in vain. If it’s just one person’s life, then it was worth our hard work.”

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