Linn County Attorney: Cedar Rapids officers justified in Desirae Daniel shooting
'Deadly force was reasonably necessary,' Vander Sanden says
UPDATE: Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden said Tuesday two police officers were justified in using deadly force against a 27-year-old woman who pointed a handgun at one of the officers following a two-mile police chase Dec. 4, 2012.
No criminal charges are warranted against Cedar Rapids officers Mitchell Magill and Adrienne Phelps in the shooting death of Desirae Daniel, of Cedar Rapids, who pointed a loaded handgun at Magill when the officers approached her vehicle and shouted several times "Show us your hands," according to Vander Sanden's report.
Brenda Daniel, Desirae's mother, couldn't be reached Tuesday for comment, and two other family members didn't return phone messages.
The Cedar Rapids officers were on routine patrol about 2:29 a.m. Dec. 4, when they recognized the car Daniel was driving from another incident, where they found its registered owner, Michelle Kuba, inside the car unconscious, according to the report. Officers then observed Daniel failed to signal when turning west on F Avenue NW and that the license plate light was hanging loose from the back of the vehicle, so they activated the police car lights and initiated a traffic stop.
Daniel didn't stop the vehicle, running through stop signs and reaching speeds of 50 to 60 mph westbound on Johnson Avenue NW, while officers pursued with lights and siren activated, according to the report. Daniel drove about two miles before finally stopping in the 200 block of 27th Street NW. Officers stopped about two car lengths behind her car and turned on the squad car's spotlight, and said they could see the driver seemed to be reaching or grabbing for something in the front seat area.
Officers drew their weapons before approaching the car, based on her movements in the car and her attempts to elude, according to the report. The officers repeatedly shouted at Daniel to "show us your hands" as they approached the vehicle from both sides, but Daniel ignored their commands and continued to make "furtive" movements in the front seat, according to Vander Sanden's report.
Agents from the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation interviewed several people who lived in the immediate area of the incident, and they reported hearing the officers shouting for the driver to "comply" or "drop the gun," according to Vander Sanden's report. When officers had a clear view of Daniel, she was leaning back in the driver's seat, but was turned to her left side in the direction of Magill. Both officers said they could see Daniel holding a black gun, later discovered to be a Ruger .380 handgun, in her right hand with the barrel pointed at Magill.
When Magill saw the weapon, he yelled "gun" and both officers fired at the driver, according to the report.
"When he first observed the weapon in Ms. Daniel's right hand, Officer Magill thought she was going to shoot him and felt he and his partner were in immediate danger of being fired upon," Vander Sanden said.
Officers fired a total of nine rounds at Daniel, with six of those shots striking her, Vander Sanden said. An autopsy revealed there were four wounds to Daniel's upper torso, one above the left knee and another to her hand. Daniels was taken to St. Luke's Hospital, where she died from her injuries.
The .380 handgun recovered from Daniel's lap after the shooting had a fully loaded six-round clip with a live round in the chamber, according to the report. Later, officers discovered the weapon had been stolen about two months earlier from a vehicle in Cedar Rapids.
After obtaining a search warrant for the car, officers found devices and ingredients commonly used to make methamphetamine, according to the report. Included among the items were coffee filters, which were tested and showed the presence of methamphetamine.
Toxicology tests conducted as part of an autopsy also showed Daniel had methamphetamine and amphetamine in her system, according to the report. Both officers were also tested for drugs or alcohol, but those tests were negative.
Officers also found out later that Daniel had outstanding warrants for her arrest for alleged probation violations in two felony cases, according to the report. The warrants were issued because Daniel failed stay in contact with her probation officer from previous incidents.
Vander Sanden said the DCI conducted a broad and detailed investigation into the incident which consisted of 60 different reports, statements and summaries from several law enforcement agencies, including Cedar Rapids Police, DCI, the Iowa State Medical Examiner's Office and the DCI Criminalistics Lab.
The DCI file also contained reports and videotaped statements of law enforcement officers, witnesses and family members, Vander Sanden said.
The police car Magill and Phelps were driving didn't have video recording equipment, officials said.