Gun found in car of woman shot, killed by Cedar Rapids police

Witness says says police 'did the right thing'

Police investigate at the scene of a fatal officer-involved shooting in northwest Cedar Rapids early Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Police investigate at the scene of a fatal officer-involved shooting in northwest Cedar Rapids early Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

UPDATE -- Investigators recovered a gun from the car a woman had been driving just before she was shot and killed by Cedar Rapids police following an early-morning police chase Tuesday.

Desirae A. Daniel, 27, of Cedar Rapids, pulled the gun as two officers approached the car, prompting officers to open fire, authorities said. She died a short time later at St. Luke’s Hospital.

The chase began around 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, when police tried to stop a driver that had committed a traffic violation near the corner of F Avenue and 19th Street NW. Police said the chase went west and then back east on Johnson Avenue NW before the driver turned south and stopped in the 200 block of 27th Street NW.

Witnesses said two officers were approaching the white sedan and shouting orders at the female driver when three gunshots rang out. According to police, Daniel displayed a gun as officers were approaching the car from the rear, and both officers fired their weapons.

Authorities have not released the names of the involved officers, who are now both on paid administrative leave from the department.

Wayne Snyder, 32, who lives across the street, said he woke up to the sound of screeching tires. About 10 seconds later, he heard three gunshots in rapid succession.

“I heard it like it was right next to me,” Snyder said.

An eyewitness to the shooting told The Gazette the officers had ordered the driver to show her hands and said, “You need to comply. You need to comply.”

“They were trying to talk to her,” said the man, who declined to be identified. “She wouldn’t do what they wanted her to do.”

According to the witness, an officer was positioned at the side window behind the driver’s seat when the driver leaned toward the passenger’s seat, as if she was reaching for something. He said he did not see the woman display a gun.

“She was still until I saw her lean,” the man said. “It was kind of like she waited for them to walk up on the car before she made a move.”

Immediately after the gunfire, the officers used their nightsticks to break out side windows and pulled the woman out, the witness said. An ambulance arrived within seconds, because medics had been just a few blocks away.

“They started to work on her immediately,” the man said.

Police took the eyewitness to the police station where he told investigators what he saw. He said the two officers gave the driver “ample time to do what she needed to do.”

“I witnessed the whole thing,” the man said. “The police did the right thing.”

A second eyewitness to the shooting said he saw an officer approaching the driver’s side of the car with his or her weapon pointed at the car. He said the officer was close to the car when the gunfire began.

The witness, who also declined to be identified, said he dropped down from his ground-floor kitchen window.

“It scared the hell out of me,” the man said.

Investigators had an area of 27th Street NW cordoned off by yellow police tape as the sun came up Tuesday morning. The car Daniel had been driving was parked along the west curb of the dead-end street, with the driver’s side door still open. Shards of glass could be seen on the ground and hanging from the car door.

State law enforcement officials were handling the investigation, which is standard procedure in officer-involved shootings.

It remained unclear late Tuesday why Daniel refused to pull over. She has been convicted of driving while barred four times in the past five years, including after an arrest in March. The car she was driving was not registered to her, police said.

Daniel's aunt, Tracy Daniel, told The Gazette she had not spoken to Desirae recently. In a brief interview, she indicated the family was in shock.

Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman spoke to both officers Tuesday morning. He said the officers are doing “as well as can be expected.”

“It is very serious, but these officers are professionals,” Jerman said. “It’s a family here, and their shift mates look out for them, emotionally and physically.”

Jerman said his primary concern going forward is the welfare of the officers. He said a strong support system exists to help officers through difficult circumstances.

“Any resource that is needed is made available to them,” Jerman said.

It was the first time in at least four years that a Cedar Rapids police officer had discharged a weapon while making an arrest, Jerman said. The last time someone died due to gunfire from Cedar Rapids police was April 30, 1997, when police shot and killed 16-year-old Ryan Washburn after he robbed a bank at 1100 Old Marion Rd. NE. Washburn was wearing a ski mask and was armed with a highly detailed replica pistol when he was shot by Cedar Rapids police officer Troy Nogelmeier.

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