Officers' use of deadly force justified in Markell Bivins shooting

Iowa Attorney General's Office: Bivins left officers 'no choice'

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Markell Bivins continued to stab Raelynn Finn even after being shot twice, requiring Cedar Rapids police to use deadly force last month, the Iowa Attorney General’s Office has found.

“Bivins left the officers no choice but to use deadly force,” said Scott D. Brown, Special Assistant Attorney General with the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, in his written findings. “Had officers not responded in the manner in which they did, their lives and the life of Raelynn Finn were in serious jeopardy.”

The Iowa Attorney General’s Office — which investigated the officer-involved shooting due to a conflict of interest in the Linn County Attorney’s Office — found the actions of officers Ashley Steil and Jeremiah White were justified.

Bivins was shot at the Valley High Apartments, 1735 Edgewood Road NW, on Sept. 12. He died from his injuries.

According to the attorney general’s office:

Bivins, 25, was at the Valley High Apartments — the home of Finn, an ex with whom he had a child — on the evening of Sept. 12. Finn told The Gazette that Bivins wanted to reunite with her, but she resisted due to their “toxic relationship” that included prior abuse.

“He basically said I was breaking up his family, if he couldn’t have me, no one could,” Finn said in September. “He told me his plan that night was neither of us were going to make it out of the apartment alive.”

Finn was able to go to her bathroom and text “Call 911 Help.” to a friend, before fleeing to another apartment unit. Bivins followed. Minutes after Finn sent the text, White and Steil arrived at the apartment.

White tried to grab Bivins, who was armed with a knife. Bivins then tackled Finn onto a couch.

“Officer White told Bivins to drop the knife on several different occasions and Bivins refused to comply,” the findings state. “Bivins began to stab Finn.”

White grabbed Bivins and attempted to stop the assault. When White told Steil that Bivins was still armed, Steil pulled her weapon on Bivins and shot him twice, hitting him in the buttocks area.

Finn was able to get out from under Bivins, who continued to struggle with White while still wielding the knife, the findings state. Holding back Bivins and the knife with one hand, White removed his firearm with the other and shot Bivins once in the chest. That round struck Bivins in the heart, according to the autopsy.

The Iowa Attorney General’s Office said the use of deadly force was reasonable in this situation.

“At the time the officers confronted Bivins, Finn was at his mercy and he was stabbing her repeatedly with a knife,” the findings state. “Multiple demands to stop the potentially deadly assault and drop the knife were not heeded by Bivins. Even after Bivins was non-fatally shot twice in the buttocks area, he continued to attack Finn and refused to comply with Officer White. Bivins left the officers no choice but to use deadly force.”

Cedar Rapids public safety spokesman Greg Buelow said Steil and White are to be placed back on regular patrol duties. In accordance with department policy, they had been placed on administrative leave while the shooting was under investigation.

In a statement, Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman said he is appreciative of the thorough investigation done by the Attorney General’s Office and Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.

“As the Iowa Attorney General’s Office indicated in their legal opinion, both Cedar Rapids police officers had no choice but to use deadly force,” Jerman said. “Further, as stated in the legal opinion, had officers not responded in the manner in which they did, their lives and the life of Raelynn Finn were in serious jeopardy.”

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