Government

Former officer Lucas Jones says he was fired to appease protesters

But 'lying is what Lucas Jones was fired for,' Cedar Rapids chief counters

Former Cedar Rapids Police Officer Lucas Jones testifies Wednesday during a virtual hearing before the Cedar Rapids Civi
Former Cedar Rapids Police Officer Lucas Jones testifies Wednesday during a virtual hearing before the Cedar Rapids Civil Service Committee. Jones is challenging the police department’s termination his position. (Screen Capture)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Lucas Jones portrayed himself Wednesday as a sacrificial lamb, asserting during a city hearing that the timing of his termination from the Cedar Rapids Police Department — one day before city leaders met with Black Lives Matter protesters to discuss police reform — was meant to appease the public.

The police department “hung me out to dry,” he told the Cedar Rapids Civil Service Commission during the second day of testimony in his appeal to rejoin the force.

Jones was fired June 18 after an internal investigation, the department said, found he had violated policies during an Oct. 30, 2016, traffic stop and lied about it.

Jones became a lightning rod after conducting a traffic stop two days later, where he and motorist Jerime Mitchell got into a physical altercation and Jones shot Mitchell, paralyzing him.

Protesters called this summer for Jones’ ouster. The former officer asserts he was let go to appease protesters and city leaders — and that, in effect, accusations leveled against him from the internal affairs investigation into the other traffic stop are a smoke screen to rid of him.

In that Oct. 30, 2016, traffic stop at the heart of the case, Jones had pulled over a Black woman in a Ford sport utility vehicle. A check of her record showed she had a suspended license.

But instead of arresting the woman and impounding the SUV, Jones opted to allow the woman’s father to pick up the vehicle. Jones testified the woman had no outstanding arrest warrants or significant criminal history and he didn’t see her as a threat to the community.

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The traffic stop, however, was called into question when Jones’ body-worn microphone cut out, making it impossible to hear what happened during part of it. That raised the question of whether it malfunctioned or was deliberately shut off.

Roughly 36 hours after that stop — the early morning hours of Nov. 1, 2016 — Jones shot Mitchell during a traffic stop near Coe College.

Authorities said Jones, who is white, stopped Mitchell, who is Black, after spotting a light out on the pickup truck’s license plate. An altercation ensued, with Mitchell getting into his pickup truck and driving away with Jones caught on the door. Jones shot Mitchell three times and the truck crashed.

Although police later said Mitchell was in possession of marijuana, a scale and cash, he was not charged. A grand jury looking into the shooting cleared Jones.

Jones’ body-worn microphone, however, did not record during the stop with Mitchell — much like it did not record two nights earlier with that female driver.

Police Chief Wayne Jerman testified Wednesday that Jones’ termination had nothing to do with the Mitchell case.

Instead, he said, Jones was terminated for violations of departmental policies and the inconsistent explanations he said Jones gave.

The termination letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Gazette through and open records request, outlines several violations, most significantly that Jones lied during an internal affairs investigation and also lied while under oath during a deposition.

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According to the police department, Jones had denied knowing why his microphone did not record in that Oct, 30, 2016, stop. But in January — more than three years afterward — Jones testified in a disposition regarding the Mitchell shooting that he had knowingly turned off his microphone.

The department said Jones also violated policy by not arresting the driver with a suspended license and impounding the SUV, a decision the department said Jones did not have the discretion to make.

Up until a few months ago, Jerman testified, he believed Jones was a good cop, who had earned several commendations, awards and promotions during his years with the department.

But that changed when he learned of inconsistencies in Jones’ accounts of the October 2016 traffic stop and the microphone malfunction.

“Untruthfulness is not and cannot be tolerated at the Cedar Rapids Police Department or any other law enforcement agency,” Jerman said, noting an officer with questionable integrity could result in tainted investigations, tainted testimony or call evidence into question.

“Lying is what Lucas Jones was fired for,” the chief testified. “That and a willingness to violate department policy, and we can’t have that in our department.”

Jones has suggested his firing also was in retaliation for a memo he wrote recounting stories of sexual harassment against a male officer that two female officers had confided in him.

Several other witnesses were called Wednesday during the over 12-hour hearing, including Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden, who vouched for Jones’ truthfulness; several patrol officers who worked under Jones and testified to his professionalism; and investigators from the internal affairs division and officers on the command staff, all of whom testified about their concerns of Jones’ changing testimony and supported the firing.

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The hearing wrapped up Wednesday night and attorneys were asked to submit their closing arguments in writing to the Civil Service Commission, whose three members are appointed by the mayor.

The panel did not give a time frame for ruling.

If the commission finds for Jones, the former officer previously told The Gazette he’d like to return to police work. Should the commission find for the department, Jones could choose appeal to District Court.

Comments: (319) 398-8238; kat.russell@thegazette.com

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