Johnson County Attorney rules ICPD officers were justified in shooting suspect

An Iowa City Police Department vehicle in downtown Iowa City. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

The shooting of a criminal suspect by two Iowa City Police Department officers last month was justified, Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness announced on Friday. ICPD Officer Alex Stricker and ICPD Officer Travis Neeld “acted with reasonable force in defending themselves and others,” when they discharged their weapons on May 9, striking Michael Cintron-Caceres, according to a statement from the county attorney’s office.

The officers were responding to the burglar alarm at The Second Act, Iowa City’s oldest consignment and vintage clothing store. A window was broken at the store, and its cash register was stolen. The shooting took place behind The Second Act.

That county attorney’s statement provided a description of the events that led to the officers firing their weapons.

In the early morning hours of May 9, Michael Cintron-Caceres fled from ICPD officers who were investigating two burglaries in the area where Cintron-Caceres had been stopped. Cintron-Caceres jumped two fences to enter a secured lot of Big Ten Rentals, 1820 Boyrum Street, Iowa City, where he hid in a truck. When found, Cintron-Caceres started the truck and used it to smash into vehicles and equipment in the lot. ICPD officers’ verbal commands, deployment of the police canine and shooting a Taser were ineffective in getting Cintron-Caceres to stop. An ICPD officer fired his weapon at Cintron-Caceres, but he continued to ram the truck. Only after a second officer shot at Cintron-Caceres did Cintron-Caceres halt his action. Two of the officers’ bullets struck Cintron-Caceres, hitting his right and left shoulders.

After the shooting, ICPD Chief Jody Matherly asked the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) to investigate the incident. The request was part of the department’s standard procedure, ICPD Public Information Officer Sgt. Derek Frank told Little Village.

Lyness relied on the finding of the DCI investigation in her reaching her conclusion that the shooting was justified. She also “reviewed the written reports of the officers; the body-worn camera and squad car audio and video of officers on the scene; the surveillance video from Big Ten Rentals’ lot where the shooting occurred; the reports from the DCI agents; the total station diagram of the Big Ten Rentals lot,” according to today’s statement. She also interviewed both officers involved and Cintron-Caceres.

This is the second officer-involved shooting Lyness has reviewed as county attorney. In 2011, an ICPD officer shot a man after he reached for a handgun while officers were conducting a wellness check, following reports that the man was suicidal. Lyness determined that shooting was justified.

That incident was the last time an ICPD officer discharged a firearm in the line of duty until May 9.

The Johnson County Attorney’s Office has posted online its full report on the May 9 shooting. It has also posted surveillance camera footage of the incident.

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