Family of man fatally shot by police in 2015 is suing for use of excessive force, violation of rights

Cedar Rapids Police officers work the scene of an overnight officer-involved shooting in the 3200 block of Ravenswood Terrace NW in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015. Evidence markers can be seen at right. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Cedar Rapids Police officers work the scene of an overnight officer-involved shooting in the 3200 block of Ravenswood Terrace NW in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015. Evidence markers can be seen at right. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — A mother and wife of a man who was fatally shot by police in October 2015 are suing the City of Cedar Rapids, police department and individual officers for use of excessive force, arrest without probable cause and other constitutional violations.

The lawsuit, filed in November in U.S. District Court, claims Jonathan Tyler Gossman was fatally shot 25 times as he was “fleeing from unlawful arrest” following a traffic stop on a vehicle he was riding in on Oct. 20, 2015.

The suit also claims the arrest of Gossman, who was a passenger in a pickup truck that was stopped in the area of 29 Street NW and Ravenwood Terrace NW in Cedar Rapids, lacks probable cause and the use of excessive force was a violation of Iowa and federal law.

The suit, filed by Twyla McElree, Gossman’s mother, and his wife, Mikaela Gossman, along with their two children, is against the City of Cedar Rapids, Cedar Rapids Police Department, Chief Wayne Jerman, Capt. Brent Long, Capt. Jeff Hembera, Sgt. Nathan Juilfs and officers Christopher Bieber, Lucas Jones, Brandon Boesenberg, Bryson Garringer and five other unidentified officers.

This is the second lawsuit filed against the city and police department over an officer involved shooting. Jerime Mitchell and his wife filed a suit last year after Jones shot him during a traffic stop in November 2016. The shooting left Mitchell paralyzed. That suit is pending and trial is set Sept. 10, 2018.       

Following the traffic stop, the suit claims Garringer ordered Gossman out of the back seat of the vehicle with the assistance of Boesenberg and Juilfs. Gossman attempted to run when exiting truck and was chased by the three officers, along with Jones and his K-9 dog. The dog was directed by Jones to “attack” Gossman, which stopped him and cause him to lose his balance.

The officers then “erroneously” decided that Gossman had fired a gun at them and they fatally shot him, discharging 25 times from two firearms, the suit states. Gossman didn’t threaten any of the officers with his gun or fire his gun, the suit added.

The fatal shooting was investigated by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and then reviewed by Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden, who ruled the use of deadly force was justified.

Vander Sanden, in his January 2016 review, said a police officer believed he saw and heard a gun being fired in his direction, which prompted him and another officer to open fire on Gossman, killing him.

Vander Sanden admitted there was no evidence that Gossman fired at the officers but because there were firearms found in the vehicle and the nature of the traffic stop regarded drug-related activity, “heightening the sense of danger,” led him to rule the shooting was justified.      

Vander Sanden, in the ruling, said the shooting stemmed from a drug investigation. Boesenberg and Garringer were monitoring pseudoephedrine, the main ingredient in making methamphetamine, purchases at a drugstore.

Officers initiated a traffic stop on the truck and Gossman, the back seat passenger, had a lanyard around his neck containing a knife and they learned there was a shotgun was under the back seat, the ruling states. He ran down the sidewalk after being ordered out of the truck.  

Jones arrived with his drug-detection dog and ordered the dog to detain Gossman, according to the ruling. Jones and Boesenberg chased Gossman, and after a short chase, the dog latched on to Gossman’s left arm and he fell to his left side, the ruling states.

Jones, in his response to the lawsuit Jan. 10, said he could see Gossman holding a black handgun across his chest with the barrel pointed at Garringer, who was 4 to 5 feet away, and the dog. Jones said he saw Garringer fall to the ground when Garringer yelled “Jesus, gun,” and he believed that Garringer had been shot by Gossman.

Jones fired his .40 caliber Glock 22 and emptied his 16-round magazine at Gossman, according to Vander Sanden’s ruling. Garringer also fired nine times.

Police found, along with the stolen 12-gauge shotgun, drug pipes, syringes, a machete and ingredients and materials used to make meth.

Jones and the other defendants deny violating any constitutional rights and argue they acted in self-defense or in defense of others and are entitled to qualified immunity.  

Gossman’s family asks for a trial and damages against the city and officers, jointly and severally, and all expenses associated with this civil action.   

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