Jerime “Danky” Mitchell of Cedar Rapids, who was shot during a traffic stop Nov. 1, 2016 and consequently paralyzed from the neck down, and his wife Bracken filed a lawsuit against Officer Lucas Jones and the City of Cedar Rapids Feb. 24. A grand jury previously decided not to indict Jones.
The Mitchells are suing for negligence; reckless, willful and wanton behavior; assault and battery; intentional infliction of emotional distress and loss of consortium (a term for the right of a spouse or family member of a victim to file suit in a personal injury case).
The Nov. 1 incident began when Jones pulled Mitchell over, allegedly because his rear license plate light was out. This lawsuit claims the lights were operational at the time of the stop and that Jones “had no legitimate, articulable reason for initiating the traffic stop.”
The suit argues that Mitchell was never informed of a “true, real and legitimate reason” why he was being pulled over, and that he was never told he was being arrested despite Mitchell repeatedly asking what he had done wrong.
“At no point did Plaintiff JERIME ERON MITCHELL ever grab, push, pull, strike, or otherwise touch Defendant OFFICER LUCAS JONES or his canine prior to the unprovoked and unwarranted attack by Defendant OFFICER LUCAS JONES and his canine,” the suit argues. “At no point did Plaintiff JERIME ERON MITCHELL ever engage in any conduct which made the use of force described herein objectively reasonable or necessary.” Jones was unarmed during the incident.
The lawsuit claims Jones commanded his police dog to kill Mitchell, and that Jones drew his gun “without any preceding threatening force” and pointed it at Mitchell’s head, saying “I’m going to kill you, man.” At this point, the suit claims, Mitchell attempted to escape to his car. As Mitchell pulled away, the officer fired, and one of the bullets hit Mitchell, causing him to become paralyzed and lose control of the car, crashing into nearby vehicles before being taken into custody.
The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation’s inquiry into the shooting came up with a different story, County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden said. In this account, Jones said he smelled marijuana after pulling Mitchell over for a burnt out light, later found in the vehicle along with evidence of intent to sell. Jones claimed he got stuck between the open door and truck, and asked Mitchell to stop but he accelerated instead, and Jones feared for his life so he fired three shots at Mitchell’s head. Mitchell, family members and the NAACP disagree with this version of the story.
The Mitchells’ suit also alleges that the city of Cedar Rapids “knew or should have know that Officer Lucas Jones’ had a propensity to use excessive force and did nothing to protect the public,” in reference to Jones’ role in the October 20, 2015 fatal officer-involved shooting of Jonathan Gossman. The suit describes the incident, saying Gossman attempted to flee but had not assaulted the officers involved when officer Jones fired 16 shots at him. Gossman had drawn a gun, however no proof was found that he fired it. The officers involved were cleared in the case.
Following both incidents, Jones was placed on temporary paid administrative leave while the incidents were being investigated, but no charges have been filed against him until now.
A friend of the Mitchells created a GoFundMe to raise money to help with the couple’s medical bills and other expenses.