Fifty-six days after the stabbing death of Devonna Walker, the Linn County Attorney’s Office has charged Shane Teslik with Voluntary Manslaughter and Disorderly Conduct. Walker died after being stabbed during a confrontation with Teslik and his wife in front of their home in Cedar Rapids on Jan. 2.
There hasn’t been any question regarding who stabbed her — there were witnesses present and a video of the incident — but the Cedar Rapids Police Department and the Linn County Attorney’s Office have said the case required a thorough investigation before any arrest could be made.
A cellphone video of the confrontation posted on social media a few days after the 29-year-old Walker, a mother of three, was killed showed her arguing with a woman about the woman needing to control her dog, after a previous incident.
At one point in the argument, Teslik, who is white, can be heard shouting, “Shut the fuck up, you fucking n***er!” Eventually, it appears that Walker pushes the woman down on her doorstep, loses her balance and almost falls on top of her. There is then a physical confrontation with Teslik during which Walker was stabbed. (The actual stabbing is not visible on the video.) Walker staggers away from Teslik, and collapses on the lawn.
A coalition of community organizations, led by Advocates for Social Justice, held a series of public protests demanding Teslik be arrested and charged for killing Walker, and the case be investigated as a possible hate crime. The most recent gathering by the coalition happened on Saturday, when the groups held the Black Lives Lost Memorial at NewBo City Market.
According to the statement issued on Monday by the Linn County Attorney’s Office, Walker’s death had been referred to the local FBI office as a possible hate crime under federal law, but FBI declined it, telling the Cedar Rapids Police Department “the case facts did not warrant a hate crime under federal law at that time.”
It was not possible to charge the case as a state crime, the statement explained, because Iowa Code “only allows for the filing of a charge based on violation of individual rights for misdemeanor offenses.”
The statement quotes Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks as saying “the decision to file these criminal charges was in no way influenced by any protest or ‘demand’ for arrest. It was solely based on our review of the facts of the case and the applicable law.”
Maybanks said the almost two-month lapse between the stabbing and his office filing charges was due, in part, to the need for a thorough investigation. Part of the delay was also due to the office prosecuting a major crime in February.
On Feb. 3, the county attorney issued a statement saying he expected to make a decision regarding charges in the killing of Devonna Walker before the end of the month, and added that, “As of next week, I must also attend to another very important case that will be going to trial in Linn County and will take up to two weeks.”
In Monday’s statement, Maybanks said that during those two weeks, his office still worked on the Walker case. That work included asking the Iowa Attorney General’s Office for an advisory opinion because of the “unique facts and circumstances and legal considerations of this case.”
The county attorney also pushed back against critics who said the “case would have been handled differently if the suspect was Black and the victim was white.”
Maybanks called that criticism “entirely unfounded.”
The 39-year-old Teslik was arrested “in another county in Iowa” on Monday, according to the statement. He is expected to be transferred to Linn County this week, and will then make his first court appearance.