116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
WATERLOO — The family of a man who eluded a traffic stop and told police he had “mental health issues” is suing the City of Waterloo and an officer who fatally shot their loved one last year after police penned in his pickup truck in an alley behind his home.
Police pursued Brent Lee Boggess, 42, after an officer attempted a traffic stop to pull him over when he was seen driving erratically about 1:22 a.m. Nov. 16, 2021 in Waterloo, according to the lawsuit filed last month by Boggess’ wife, Lisa Boggess, and his mother, Kim Buttshaw.
An officer activated his lights and followed Boggess in his Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck when Boggess didn’t immediately pull over. At one point, Boggess did roll down his window and attempted to speak with the officer but then continued to drive, eventually going to his house at 220 Madison St.
Eight officers responded to the eluding incident and drove their vehicles “through yards, roads and back alleys” as they followed Boggess to his house, the suit states. During this time, Boggess never displayed a weapon or damaged any police vehicles.
Officer Joe Zubak got out of his vehicle in the alley south of Boggess’ house and placed stop sticks at a “choke point” in the alley. The stop sticks were placed between a three-foot retaining wall on one side and a metal chain link fence on the other.
Zubak, according to the suit, told the other officers not to follow Boggess down the alley. He planned to pen in the suspect’s truck and de-escalate a “potentially dangerous situation.” Zubak also told other officers to turn off their sirens.
Body camera video shows Boggess stopped directly in front of the stop sticks, the lawsuit states. Boggess then rolled down his window to talk with Zubak and the officer told him “Stop your car, man, hey stop your car. Come out here and let me talk to you.”
Boggess was trapped with the stop sticks at the front of his truck, the retaining wall on one side, the chain link fence to his other side, and a police vehicle directly behind him, the suit contends.
As Zubak was talking with Boggess, another officer, Kyle Ullom, was also reasoning with him and asking him to “Hold up, dude. Just talk to us,” according to the suit.
The suit again points out Boggess didn’t have a weapon and never threatened the officers with violence. In Zubak’s bodycam video, Boggess can be heard saying he has “mental health issues.” Zubak seems to understand this and continues to try to talk with him, according to the suit.
Another officer, Nick Weber, seemed to ignore Zubak’s request for officers to stay out of the alley, “driving directly” toward Boggess’ truck in an “aggressively unnecessary manner,” the suit contends. In the video, Zubak is seen yelling for Weber to stop and Boggess isn’t moving.
At this same time, another officer, Kenneth Schaaf, runs along the north side of the alley with his firearm drawn as he approaches Weber’s vehicle on the driver’s side, according to the suit. Then Weber continues driving toward Boggess’ truck, goes over the stop sticks and Boggess reacts and drives toward the police cruiser.
Both vehicles collide at a “low rate of speed causing minimal damage” and neither vehicle deploys its air bag, the suit states.
After the collision, Schaaf “needlessly and recklessly” fired five rounds at Boggess, the suit contends. Schaaf was about 20 feet from Boggess and Weber.
When Schaaf fired his gun, other officers were in his line of fire, including Zubak and Ullom, who were on the other side of Boggess, according to the suit.
Boggess was hit with four bullets. In the video, Boggess tells officers “Dude, I’m unarmed,” as he gets out of the vehicle and collapses on the ground.
The Waterloo City Attorney’s Office and Waterloo Police Chief Joe Leibold didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Dave O’Brien, one of the lawyers representing the family, said Thursday Boggess was “clearly having a mental episode” when Zubak attempted to make the traffic stop and Zubak recognized this and “was doing exactly as he’s been trained to do — de-escalate the situation.” Nobody was in danger during this incident, he said.
Boggess reacted and drove forward when the officer drove toward him, even running over the stop sticks, O’Brien added.
None of the other officers withdrew their weapons and fired, except for Schaaf, O’Brien pointed out. He was “fortunate” that nobody else was hit because other officers were in the line of fire.
Earlier this year, Black Hawk County Attorney Brian Williams found Schaaf was justified, and his use of using deadly force was reasonable after Boggess led police on an erratic chase.
“Rather than voluntarily surrendering to law enforcement, Boggess apparently ‘baited’ officers to exit their patrol units and approach him on foot,” Williams wrote in his report. “When officers did so, Boggess quickly accelerated his truck, putting the officers at significant risk of bodily harm.”
O’Brien, who has handled several wrongful death/use of excessive force cases against police, said if Schaaf hadn’t been “wearing a uniform” he would have been charged with murder but “once again, no criminal charges were filed, so we’ll seek damages through the civil system.”
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