CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa—An unarmed motorist struggled with an Iowa officer and a police dog before the officer shot the driver when he tried to get away, paralyzing him, dashcam video released Thursday shows.
The man rushed to his pickup truck and got back inside, then the officer shoots him at close range as the vehicle rolls away, according to the video.
The video seems unlikely to resolve a debate over whether Cedar Rapids police officer Lucas Jones acted appropriately during the Nov. 1 shooting of 37-year-old Jerime Mitchell.
A grand jury in Linn County decided Monday not to indict Jones, a move prosecutors announced a day later. The county’s top prosecutor, Jerry Vander Sanden, said the video shows that Mitchell refused to comply with Jones and that the officer fired in self-defense during the scuffle.
But Mitchell has disputed that account, arguing that the officer was the aggressor throughout the confrontation. His supporters and civil rights activists have blasted the prosecutor for hastily ending the secret grand jury inquiry without obtaining any statement or testimony from Mitchell, who is hospitalized with a bullet lodged in his neck and unable to move most of his body.
“I was unarmed. I never struck the officer, or the dog. This has changed my life forever,” Mitchell said in a statement released by his attorney late Wednesday. “No one should ever be treated the way I was that night.”
After being criticized for keeping the dashcam video from the public during the investigation, the Cedar Rapids Police Department released it to news media Thursday afternoon. The conversation between Jones and Mitchell can’t be heard. Police said Jones’ body microphone wasn’t working.
The video shows Jones pulling Mitchell over at 1:17 a.m. Investigators have said Jones initiated the stop because the light bulbs that illuminate the license plate on Mitchell’s truck were burned out — a $87 infraction. Police have said that Jones asked Mitchell to get out of the vehicle after smelling marijuana.
In the video after Mitchell is out of the truck, Jones stands behind him and begins to handcuff him. The two exchange some words and Mitchell appears to resist being cuffed. Jones pushes Mitchell against the truck, then takes him to the ground.
With the officer clinging to his back, Mitchell gets up from the ground. The barking dog runs toward Mitchell. It’s not clear if the dog bites Mitchell.
Mitchell rushes to his pickup and manages to climb inside the truck with Jones still holding onto his back. Jones reaches for his gun, then the truck begins to roll away. Jones fires three times before falling onto the street as the truck speeds off.
Vander Sanden said Jones feared the truck would run him over and acted in self-defense. He said Mitchell could have avoided being shot if he had complied with the officer’s orders.
Mitchell’s family members viewed the video earlier Thursday. His brother, Rosevelt Milam, said it supports Mitchell’s claim that the officer threw him against the truck, took him to the ground, released his police dog to join the attack, and then shot him as Mitchell got back in his truck to try to get away from the animal.
“They are going to have some answering to do when the video comes out. This is going to look so bad,” Milam said.