Cedar Rapids City Council approves $8 million settlement in CRPD shooting of Jerime Mitchell

Jerime Mitchell and his wife Bracken (left) attended a protest for police reform in Cedar Rapids on June 6, 2020, in Greene Square Park. Mitchell didn’t plan on speaking during the protest but said hearing and seeing the crowd gave him strength. — Jason Smith/Little Village

The Cedar Rapids City Council voted on Tuesday to approve the $8 million settlement agreement in the civil lawsuit filed by Jerime Mitchell and his wife Bracken. The Mitchells filed their lawsuit against the City of Cedar Rapids and former police officer Lucas Jones, who shot and paralyzed Mitchell in 2016.

The resolution to move forward with the settlement was on the council’s consent agenda during its Tuesday meeting. Items on the consent agenda are approved by one vote without discussion, unless council decides to vote on a matter separately.

The record-breaking settlement was reached on April 19, preempting a long-awaited trial scheduled to begin the following day. Larry Rogers, the attorney representing the Mitchells, said in a statement following the announcement that the money will help pay for Mitchell’s future health needs.

The city’s insurance company, States Insurance, agreed to pay the settlement and had control over whether to settle the lawsuit. In the settlement agreement, the city did not admit wrongdoing, and Cedar Rapids officially stands behind its review that concluded Jones “acted properly” during the stop.

The city incurred $688,000 in legal expenses during the lawsuit, including $619,000 paid to a law firm that represented Jones. A risk fund in the city’s budget will cover $500,000 and insurance will cover the remaining sum.

According to Jones’ version of events, he pulled Mitchell over during a traffic stop on Nov. 1, 2016, 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 alleged Jones had no basis for the stop, improperly used force and fired his gun without justification. The lawsuit also alleged the city was negligent by employing Jones, who was one of the CRPD officers who shot Jonathan Gossman, following a traffic stop in 2015. Gossman, who was shot 24 times by officers, died.

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 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.

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