CEDAR RAPIDS — Two days before he shot and wounded a Black man during a traffic stop, then-Cedar Rapids police Officer Lucas Jones cut a break for a Black woman he stopped — evidence, his attorney says, the city has unfairly characterized and fired Jones.
In the wake of his firing last week, Jones said in an interview he is being used as a scapegoat to mollify Black Lives Matter protesters.
He was fired June 18 for violating department rules and policies in an Oct. 30, 2016, traffic stop — the one in which his attorney said Jones used his discretion to cut the driver a break.
The city’s termination letter asserts that Jones deliberately disabled his body microphone, which would have recorded his interactions with the driver, and later lied to internal affairs investigators and then again in a court deposition.
Skylar Limkemann, Jones’ attorney, said the portrayal of his client couldn’t be further from the truth.
According to the attorney, Jones had pulled over a vehicle that Oct. 30 because it had no license plates. Driving the vehicle was a young Black woman, Limkemann said, and a Black male was in the front passenger seat.
Jones took the woman’s information and ran her license and learned it was suspended, Limkemann said. He then dug deeper to see why.
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“Turns out, she was suspended for non-payment of fines,” he said. “She was having some problems with paying her tickets.”
A background check came up clean, Limkemann said, so Jones decided to cut her a break.
“Lucas knew that in writing that ticket the woman could lose her license for another six months and face a lot more fines and costs and that wasn’t going to help anyone. So he let it slide and called her father (a tow-truck driver) to pick her and the car up.”
At the time, Jones believed the police department’s policies gave him some discretion in who he did or did not arrest, the attorney said.
But the department disagreed. It wrote in the termination letter that Jones failed to arrest a subject when he was required to.
The department also said Jones testified under oath during a Jan. 16 deposition that he “intentionally turned off his audio recording microphone to conceal that he was (intentionally) violating policy,” during that traffic stop — a point Limkemann disputes.
And the department said Jones asserted he “would knowingly violate department policy as he sees fit,” according to the termination letter.
“That’s not what he said,” Limkemann said. “Those are just two more statements that have been completely misreported.”
Five months after the traffic stop, when internal investigators asked about it, the attorney said, Jones didn’t remember how the microphone got turned off.
“He said ‘I don’t remember,’” Limkemann said. “He may have reached into his pocket and turned it off, it might have been bumped off, the battery could have died, or the camera could have malfunctioned — Lucas doesn’t know.”
In letting that driver slide Oct. 30, 2016, Limkemann said, Jones was doing what he though was right — he was trying to help a person who was struggling.
Reading from a transcript of his client’s testimony during the January deposition, Limkemann said Jones was asked if his violating police policy and cutting the woman a break was a sign he was willing to further violate department rules and policies.
Limkemann said Jones answered: “I consider driving with a suspended license by a hardworking person who doesn’t have a criminal record to be a minor violation. … In terms of minor violations, and especially with the way race relations are in America, I felt the need to make a positive impact upon someone’s life. … So yes, I would continuously violate this policy in order to create a positive impact on someone’s life.”
“That’s completely different from what the police department said he said,” the attorney added.
Jones became a controversial figure for the Cedar Rapids department when he shot and paralyzed Jerime Mitchell during a Nov. 1, 2016, traffic stop — just two days after the other traffic stop in dispute.
Authorities said Jones pulled over Mitchell because the driver’s license plate lights were out.
An altercation ensued between the men before Mitchell drove off with Jones hanging on the driver’s side door.
Jones shot Mitchell three times and Mitchell soon crashed.
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Police later said Mitchell was in possession of marijuana, a scale and cash, but he was not charged. A grand jury cleared Jones.
Jones’ microphone in the Mitchell traffic stop was not working, either, though police have yet to give the public a full account as to why it wasn’t.
The only recording of the incident police later released is video and audio from the dashboard camera in Jones’ cruiser,
It shows the men scuffling and Jones’ police dog jumping into the fray. In the video, Mitchell gets back in the truck and drives away, with Jones stuck on the door.
Mitchell and his wife have filed a lawsuit against Jones and the city for negligence, assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and loss of consortium. The case has not gone to trial.
Jones told The Gazette last week he plans to appeal his termination, and Limkemann said it was filed Thursday.
Jones denies ever having been dishonest, stating he had gone so far as to take a polygraph test.
“If someone accuses you of lying, the only way to prove that you didn’t lie is to get an objective piece of evidence proving that,” he told The Gazette on June 19. “So I took it upon myself to take a polygraph, and the polygraph examiner asked me directly, ‘Have you ever lied to internal affairs?’ and I said ‘no,’ and it came back truthful. And (the examiner) said (my answer) scored at the highest possible score as being truthful.”
“I would go broke and live under a bridge if I have to in order to clear my name,” Jones told the Associated Press this week. The former Marine, who worked for the department a decade, said being called a liar “kills me to my core.”
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