Government

Burlington public records case hearing set for May 16

Relatives of Autumn Steele want more information about her 2015 fatal shooting by police

A memorial stands outside the home of Autumn Steele in September 2015, where the Burlington woman was shot and killed by a Burlington police officer. A hearing has been set for May 16 to decide if law enforcement has violated Iowa’s public records law by releasing only 12 seconds of the police officer’s body camera recording. The woman’s family and the Burlington Hawk Eye newspaper are seeking release of the records and video in the case. (Daniel Acker/Washington Post)
A memorial stands outside the home of Autumn Steele in September 2015, where the Burlington woman was shot and killed by a Burlington police officer. A hearing has been set for May 16 to decide if law enforcement has violated Iowa’s public records law by releasing only 12 seconds of the police officer’s body camera recording. The woman’s family and the Burlington Hawk Eye newspaper are seeking release of the records and video in the case. (Daniel Acker/Washington Post)

A May 16 hearing has been set to hear arguments over whether the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and Burlington police violated public records law by not releasing investigative records about a 2015 fatal shooting of a Burlington woman by a Burlington police officer.

Officer Jesse Hill shot Autumn Steele, 34, on Jan. 6, 2015, when he responded to a domestic disturbance at Steele’s house. When Steele’s dog ran toward Hill in the yard, Hill fired his weapon and accidentally hit Steele, killing her.

No criminal charges were filed against Hill, and he returned to work.

The Burlington Police and the DCI so far have released 12 seconds of Hill’s body camera recording, but Steele’s family and the Burlington Hawk Eye newspaper filed complaints with the Iowa Public Information Board to get additional records.

The Public Information Board filed charges against the law enforcement agencies in December 2016, but the case has been stalled for more than a year by legal wrangling.

Attorneys representing the DCI and Burlington Police asked for a summary judgment, which would have ended the case, but Administrative Law Judge Karen Doland decided Dec. 5 not to grant the motion.

Doland on Friday set the contested case hearing for May 16 in Des Moines with the expectation it will take all day, said Margaret Johnson, Public Information Board executive director.

Both sides will have an opportunity to present their cases, and Doland will make a recommendation to the board over whether the charges of a public records violation are founded.

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The board, created in 2012, has the authority to level civil penalties of up to $2,500 for a knowing violation of public records or public meetings laws.

The contested case could have broad implications for the public’s access to law enforcement records, including body camera video, dash camera video and 911 call recordings.

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