Concerns about discrepancies in police account, dash camera video

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

Members of the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP and family members of Jerime “Danky” Mitchell, who was paralyzed following a Nov. 1 police shooting, voiced concerns Thursday over discrepancies they saw between the dash camera video released yesterday and the account provided by Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden during a press conference Tuesday.

“We have great concerns when this video, [and] what was presented to us by the county attorney, are night and day,” Betty Andrews, president of the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP said during the meeting at the Cedar Rapids African American Museum of Iowa Thursday night, which was livestreamed on the group’s Facebook page.

On Monday, a grand jury decided against indicting Cedar Rapids Police Officer Lucas Jones, who was involved in the shooting. During Tuesday’s press conference announcing the decision, Vander Sanden provided a description of the incident based on the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation’s report. However, individuals expressed concern that Mitchell had not been able to provide a statement in time to be presented to the grand jury.

“We were presented one side of the story,” Andrews said of the Tuesday press conference. “We’re here today to take a look at the video, and let you all see this, and you be the judge. What we believe is that this video shows a completely different story than what was presented on Tuesday.”

The presentation stepped through the five-and-a-half minute dash camera video, providing criticisms and voicing questions about the official account. The footage shows the initial pursuit, traffic stop and shooting. Jones’ body mic was not functioning at the time of the incident, so there is no audio of his interaction with Mitchell. However, the audio on the dash camera was recording so viewers can hear the barking service dog and the three shots fired.

Andrews questioned some of the dialogue presented in Jones’ version of the events. On Tuesday, Vander Sanden said that Mitchell was uncooperative from the beginning, asking “What the fuck do you want?” when Jones approached his truck.

“Take a look at the officer and tell me if he looks like he’s being cussed at,” Andrews said. “Jerime is handing over his ID. What happened to, ‘What the F do you want?'”

The video shows Mitchell getting out of the car and Jones grabbing his hands and putting him up against the car to handcuff him. At one point, a struggle breaks out and both men end up on the ground by the back end of the pickup truck. The K-9 service dog is released and, as the struggle continues, Mitchell is able to get back in the car. The truck starts moving forward with Jones still in between the open door and the cab of the car. Jones reaches for his service weapon and fires three shots before falling backward on the ground as the truck continues forward.

Andrews questioned whether Mitchell was truly behaving aggressively, as was stated during Tuesday’s press conference.

“We have an officer that is holding on to Jerime as he is trying to get away, but he has experienced a situation where he is being confronted by an aggressor,” Andrews said. “Notice he did not throw a punch. He did not swing. He didn’t fight whatsoever. He didn’t even fight the dog. He didn’t kick the dog. He didn’t do anything but try to get away from a situation that was turning possibly deadly.”

Andrews described Mitchell’s body language as compliant, in contrast to the official version of events, and questioned the reason for the initial traffic stop — burned out license plate lights. She called it a pretextual stop, where law enforcement officers use a minor offense to detain individuals for further investigation.

“The question is why?” Andrews said. “Why was Jerime stopped and why was he pursued so aggressively? Why? And that’s where we are today. It’s a tough place to be. But that’s where we are.”

At the end of the meeting, Louise Mitchell, Jerime Mitchell’s mother, spoke.

“Right now I’m really, really hurt and I’m really sad,” Mitchell said. “I’m sad and I’m angry, because this should not have happened to my son. This shouldn’t happen to anybody’s child.”

She said her son was not the type of person to use profanity in the way described in the official investigation and criticized the use of deadly force by police officers in Cedar Rapids and across the country.

“What happened to him was not right,” she said of her son. “It was not right. There’s nothing to justify what this officer has done that can make it right. It was not right. I do believe that God will render justice. And that’s what I want: justice. Not only for my son, but everyone to have justice when there’s something wrong going on in this country … There are other parents who are hurting because police officers are out shooting, and hurting, and harming people and they are not being held accountable for it and that has to stop. It must stop.”

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