An $8 million settlement has been reached in the civil lawsuit filed by Jerime “Danky” Mitchell and his wife Bracken against the City of Cedar Rapids and former police officer Lucas Jones over a November 2016 traffic stop during which Jones shot and paralyzed Mitchell.
The amount will set a record for a settlement in a police shooting case in the state, according to the Associated Press. The settlement, which is subject to approval from the Cedar Rapids City Council, avoids a long-awaited trial that was scheduled to begin on Tuesday.
The city’s insurance company, States Insurance, agreed to pay the settlement and had control over whether to settle. The city does not admit wrongdoing as part of the settlement and stands behind its review that Jones “acted properly” during the stop.
“The case has been divisive to our community and it is our hope that we can continue to enhance relationships that build trust between our community and our police department,” city spokesperson Maria Johnson said in a statement. “We all share the desire for a safe community.”
On Nov. 1, 2016, Jones pulled Mitchell over, saying he did so because Mitchell’s license plate light was not working. What happened during the traffic stop has been in dispute, and Jones’ audio recording device was not working during the stop. Jones fired his gun three times, striking Mitchell in the neck once.
A grand jury declined to indict Jones for the shooting, and an investigation by the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation concluded that Jones had not broken the law when he shot Mitchell. He was reinstated after being temporarily suspended while the case was under investigation.
The Mitchells filed their lawsuit in March 2017. The couple sued for negligence; reckless, willful and wanton behavior; assault and battery; intentional infliction of emotional distress and loss of consortium (a term for the right of a spouse or family member of a victim to file suit in a personal injury case).
The incident with Mitchell was not the first shooting Jones was involved in as a CRPD officer. In October 2015, Jones and another officer shot and killed 21-year-old Jonathan Gossman after a traffic stop. That shooting was deemed justified by Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden.
Signs using Mitchell’s nickname and calling for “Justice for Danky” were prominent at protests in Cedar Rapids last summer calling for police reform, and “Fire Lucas Jones” had been a frequent chant.
Larry Rogers, the attorney representing Mitchell and his wife, said in a statement on Monday that the “most significant result” of the civil suit was getting Jones fired. Rogers added that the money will help pay for Mitchell’s future health needs.
The Cedar Rapids Police Department fired Jones last June for turning off a microphone that should have been recording a traffic stop he conducted on Oct. 30, 2016, then lying about it. The October stop was two days before Jones pulled Mitchell over.
Jones’ letter of termination detailed six violations stemming from the traffic stop that led to him receiving letters of reprimand, a 40-hour suspension and eventually being fired.
During a deposition in January 2020 for the civil lawsuit, Jones said turning off his microphone was intentional, which was different from what he said back in April 2017 when he expressed that he did not remember how the microphone turned off.
Jones appealed his termination last year to the city’s Civil Service Commission. After hearing two days of testimony, the commission voted unanimously to uphold Jones’ termination. Jones is in the process of appealing the commission’s decision in Linn County District Court, the Gazette reported earlier this year.
“Through our lawsuit, my lawyers proved that Lucas Jones was an untruthful police officer who intentionally violated police policies and procedures and would turn off his recording equipment to conceal his policy violations,” Mitchell said in a statement.