After reviewing the actions of two Cedar Rapids police officers who shot a suspect during a traffic stop on July 30, Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks has concluded the officers acted “to avoid injury or risk to their lives and [the shooting] was reasonable under Iowa law.”
Officer Blair Klostermann and Officer Matt Jenatscheck fired a total of 12 times at Brandon Nelson of Cedar Rapids, after Nelson exited his vehicle holding a shotgun that he then pointed at them. Nelson “sustained at least 3 gunshot wounds from being shot at by these two officers,” according to the official memorandum on the shooting issued by the Linn County Attorney’s Office on Monday morning.
Nelson’s injuries were treated at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and were not considered life-threatening.
Dash-cam video from both officers’ squad cars show Nelson pointing the shotgun at Jenatscheck, and a third Cedar Rapids Police Department officer who arrived at the scene when Nelson was confronting Klostermann and Jenatscheck confirmed the accounts given by those two officers.
“Criminal charges against Officers Klostermann and Jenatscheck are not warranted,” County Attorney Maybanks concluded in the official memo. “Without question, this was clearly a justified shooting.”
CRPD officers first noticed a speeding Chevy Sebring traveling at more than 90 miles per hour on Edgewood Drive SW at approximately 3:15 a.m. on Saturday, July 30, according to the summary of events in the memo.
“The suspect vehicle was spotted on numerous subsequent occasions driving recklessly and over the speed limit in NW Cedar Rapids over the next half-hour or so, including reportedly traveling head-on at an ambulance,” the memo said.
Klostermann and Jenatscheck were following the car when it suddenly stopped in the 2200 block of Glass Road NE. Klostermann stopped her squad car behind the Sebring, and Jenatscheck pulled his car up next to Klostermann’s.
Nelson got out of his car, before the officers did. He was holding a shotgun. After the officers exited their cars, Nelson aimed the shotgun at them — first at Klostermann, then at Jenatscheck. Nelson ignored shouted orders to drop the weapon, and after he raised the shotgun assumed a firing stance, Klostermann and Jenatscheck fired their service weapons at him. As he was struck by the bullets, Nelson fired the shotgun in Jenatscheck’s direction, but missed the officer.
It was less than 10 seconds between Nelson stepping out of the car and the final shot being fired. Nelson was wounded in “his lower left abdomen, his left chest, and his left tibia,” according to the memo.
Nelson was not the owner of the car or the shotgun. Investigators subsequently interviewed the car’s owner, who told them he and another friend had been with Nelson in the car until 1:30 a.m. on July 30. He had allowed Nelson to drive off in the car after being dropped off. Both the owner and the other person told the CRPD Nelson was drunk and driving erratically. The owner of the car also owns the shotgun, which he said was locked in the trunk when Nelson drove off in the car.
CRPD requested the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) assist in the investigation, since two of its officers had shot at the suspect.
“Nelson was interviewed by DCI Agent Trent Vileta and [CRPD] Investigator Sara Lacina,” according to the memo. “Nelson reported having no recollection of what occurred from the time he dropped off the owner of the vehicle until he was on the ground outside the vehicle in pain. He admitted consuming alcohol the night of the incident and assumed he was intoxicated and acted the way he did in order to get shot by the police.”
No charges related to the July 30 incident have been filed yet, and Maybanks says it remains under investigation.