Public Safety

Burlington to pay $2 million to family of Autumn Steele, who was shot by police in 2015

Details of wrongful death settlement still private, but Autumn Steele's family releases dollar amount

(File photo) A memorial stands outside the former home of Autumn Steele, a woman shot and killed by an Iowa police officer, in Burlington, Iowa, in September. Illustrates BODYCAMERAS (category a), by Kimberly Kindy and Julie Tate © 2015, The Washington Post. Moved Friday, Oct. 9, 2015. (Photo for The Washington Post  photo by Daniel Acker)
(File photo) A memorial stands outside the former home of Autumn Steele, a woman shot and killed by an Iowa police officer, in Burlington, Iowa, in September. Illustrates BODYCAMERAS (category a), by Kimberly Kindy and Julie Tate © 2015, The Washington Post. Moved Friday, Oct. 9, 2015. (Photo for The Washington Post photo by Daniel Acker)
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The family of a Burlington woman fatally shot by a police officer in 2015 will get $2 million in a settlement with the city.

The federal wrongful death lawsuit was settled June 6, but the family of Autumn Steele made the amount public Monday as other details remain under wraps.

“The dollar amount is recognition by the City of Burlington and Officer Jesse Hill that Hill acted in a wrongful and unjustified manner in shooting and killing my beautiful daughter,” Steele’s mother, Gina Colbert, said in a statement.

The suit filed in 2016 claimed Hill fired his gun in an “unreasonable, unnecessary and reckless manner,” on Jan. 6, 2015, striking and killing Autumn Steele in her front yard. The family asserts the Burlington Police Department did not properly train Hill or provide supervision in the use of deadly force.

Hill, responding to a domestic abuse call to the Steeles’ house, found the couple in a verbal argument in the front yard. Gabriel Steele was holding their three-year-old son at the time, the lawsuit states. Police have said the Steeles’ dog, Sammy, attacked Hill, which caused him to accidentally shoot Autumn Steele.

No criminal charges were filed against Hill and he returned to work.

David O’Brien, an attorney representing Colbert, Gabriel Steele, Autumn Steele’s husband, and Sean Schoff, listed as a friend of the Steeles’ two young sons, said Monday the full settlement will be released once it’s complete.

“We’re still in the process of putting the details of the settlement together,” he said.

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The City of Burlington released a statement Monday afternoon saying officials would not comment on the specifics of the settlement, which has not yet been approved by a federal judge.

The Iowa Freedom of Information Council filed a motion to intervene in the case June 12, arguing the settlement should be public information despite a pattern of the court allowing other records in the case to be kept under seal.

“Absent action by this Court to reverse the improvident sealing orders, the Court’s records and workings and the facts underlying the police killing of a young woman in Burlington, Iowa, will remain shielded from public scrutiny. Such secrecy undermines the accountability of government officials and the public’s acceptance of any result reached through use of the federal judiciary,” the motion states.

There has been no court action on the motion.

The Burlington Police and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation so far have released only 12 seconds of Hill’s body camera recording — despite requests from the family to see the full investigative file in the closed case. The Iowa Public Information Board has charged the agencies with violating Iowa’s public records law and are scheduled to have a contested case hearing July 20.

l Comments: (319) 339-3157; erin.jordan@thegazette.com

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