The Cedar Rapids Police Department continues to face criticism after declining to release dashboard camera video from the Nov. 1 officer-involved shooting that left Jerime ‘Danky’ Mitchell paralyzed. During a Tuesday city council meeting, a mass of people gathered in the hallway to protest the lack of answers about what happened.
Members of Mitchell’s family were at the meeting Tuesday night but, following the advice of their lawyer, declined to speak. However, they said they were glad people were raising awareness of the shooting.
Community members who did speak criticized the police department’s handling of the shooting, but also spoke out against the broader issue of police aggression. In his comments to the city council, Bernard Clayton argued that simply firing a police chief or putting an officer in jail wasn’t going to solve the fundamental issue. Rather, the issue is one that society as a whole needs to address.
“Some of us are guilty, but all of us are responsible,” Clayton said.
In a statement released Tuesday morning, the police department acknowledged the concerns and requests for further information from the community, but stated that the “early release of evidence, video footage, witness statements, etc. could jeopardize the integrity of the investigation of this incident.”
The shooting is still under investigation by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation. Officer Lucas Jones, who was the officer involved in the shooting, will remain on administrative leave during the course of the investigation.
The police department’s statement also contained a comment by the Linn County Attorney, which stated that peace officers’ investigative reports that are part of an ongoing investigation are considered to be confidential.
“The police investigation in this matter will be ongoing until there is a legal decision made regarding charges,” the statement from the county attorney read. “If no charges are filed, then the investigation will be concluded and the ‘custodian’ of the records will be free to release the video. However, if charges are filed, the investigation will be considered ongoing until the charges are adjudicated in court.”
Rachel Messer, part of the Iowa City Chapter of Showing Up For Racial Justice, and others stood holding signs in the hallway during the meeting before being allowed in for the public comment session.
“We are here to support Danky Mitchell’s family in getting answers from the police department, city council and mayor about the shooting and paralysis of their loved one,” Messer said.
Messer said that someone from the police department, city council or the mayor needed to step forward to condemn police violence towards the black community.
“They need to show they care about all the people that they serve and they need to be proactive about that and denounce [police] violence towards black people and people of color,” Messer said.
Avery Cassell said both he and his brother grew up with Mitchell and were shocked by the shooting and relieved that Mitchell was still alive, although he said that life will never be the same again.
“He’s just not the type of person who would do anything like that,” Cassell said of Mitchell. “He’s a very genuine, sincere guy who loves his family and his wife.”
Cassell recalled running into Mitchell well before the shooting and said he was touched when Mitchell asked how his family was doing.
“He’s the type of person who would always ask about family and would offer help and just always be there for his friends,” he said. “I just can’t imagine what that family is going through.”
“The question is: How did this happen? Especially since the officer had a history,” he added.
Jones, the officer involved in the shooting, was previously involved in an October 2015 shooting that killed 21-year-old Jonathan T. Gossman. That shooting involved two officers and was determined to be justified by Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden.
Cassell said he recognized that the police have a tough job, but that he found it upsetting, if unsurprising, that the police department declined to release more information.
“We have a right to see the footage,” he said. “It happened, and the family, especially, has the right to know why.”