City of Cedar Rapids paid $619,000 to defend former officer Lucas Jones

Lucas Jones testified and was questioned during the second day of his appeal hearing, Sept. 23, 2020. — screengrab

The City of Cedar Rapids paid $619,000 to defend former Cedar Rapids police officer Lucas Jones against the civil lawsuit filed by Jerime Mitchell and his wife Bracken, the Associated Press reported on Thursday.

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

Foley pointed out that the $500,000 the city is paying is 20 times as much as the budget for its independent citizen review board that will oversee the CRPD and track complaints against officers. The amount is 16 times as much as the $30,000 the city budgeted for a three-year traffic stop analysis.

Jones pulled Mitchell over during a traffic stop on Nov. 1, 2016, 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.

Dash camera video from the Nov. 1, 2016 police shooting of Jerime Mitchell was released Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016. — screenshot via Cedar Rapids Police Department video

The Mitchells filed their lawsuit in March 2017 against Jones and the city. 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 also shot and killed Jonathan Gossman after a traffic stop in October 2015.

The case was scheduled to go to trial last month but an $8 million settlement was reached, pending approval from the Cedar Rapids City Council. The amount will set a record for a settlement in a police shooting case in the state.

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 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, and a hearing is set for August, Foley reported.

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