CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids police Sgt. Lucas Jones, whose ouster protesters have been demanding this month over a 2016 shooting that paralyzed a black motorist, has been fired “for violating rules and policies,” the department announced Thursday.
According to a statement, Jones had been on administrative leave from the department since May 4, weeks before his name became a galvanizing theme in large protests this month in Cedar Rapids. Police said the administrative investigation that led to his termination actually began in February.
But the department declined to give other details, asserting that personnel manners are confidential. A lawyer listed in court records as an attorney for Jones did not return a message from The Gazette.
Jones’ name has come up repeatedly recently as thousands of people in Cedar Rapids protested the Memorial Day death of George Floyd, a black man, after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
Among a list of police reform demands made by local protesters was firing Jones from the force.
The white officer became a controversial figure after he shot and wounded Jerime Mitchell, of Cedar Rapids, during a traffic stop in 2016. Mitchell has been paralyzed since.
Nicole LeGrand, one of the Cedar Rapids protest organizers, said the firing was a step in the right direction but she questioned the timing of the announcement.
“We were tipped to this information weeks ago,” she said.
LeGrand said she and other organizers believe Jones likely was fired a month or more ago — or that the department at least had made up its mind to do so weeks ago.
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By announcing Jones’ termination Thursday — a day before police and city officials are scheduled to meet with protest organizers for more negotiations — police officials were trying to appease them beforehand, LeGrand said.
“We believe they did it to appear like they are really doing something,” she said. “We are definitely happy that Lucas Jones was fired, and we believe it is a step in the right direction. But we are not going to let this silence us. We are still going to fight for our demands.”
Authorities said Jones stopped Mitchell on the morning of Nov. 1, 2016, near the Coe College campus. An altercation ensued between the men, and Jones shot Mitchell, paralyzing him from the neck down.
A police video released after the shooting showed Mitchell driving away from the stop in a pickup with Jones caught on the vehicle’s door. Authorities said Jones ordered Mitchell to stop, but he continued. Jones fired three times, and Mitchell soon crashed the truck.
Police recovered a pound of marijuana, scales and cash in a backpack inside Mitchell’s truck, Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden said.
The incident was investigated by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, and Vander Sanden convened a grand jury. But both times, Jones was cleared.
Mitchell and his wife later filed a lawsuit against Jones and the city of Cedar Rapids for negligence, assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and loss of consortium.
Pressley Henningsen, one of Mitchell’s attorneys, said Thursday he hopes the police department will release more information about Jones’ termination — especially what he might have done to violate the department’s rules and policies.
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“I’m hoping that this will be made public,” he said. “Why shouldn’t it? The police work for us. The way we feel is that all police records should be open to the public.”
The trial over the lawsuit was scheduled to begin on Oct. 5, but attorneys on both sides have asked the court to move it to April 19, 2021.
Jones also was one of two Cedar Rapids officers involved in the Oct. 20, 2015, fatal shooting of Jonathan T. Grossman, 21. Jones was cleared in that incident also.
One other officer has been fired from the city department in the last year before Jones. The department said Austin Mensen, was discharged from the force Sept. 24, 2019. Mensen was discharged after an administrative investigation found that he violated departmental policy by driving drunk.
Jones has the right to appeal his termination to the Civil Service Commission. Any appeal involving the suspension, demotion or discharge of a person holding civil service rights must be made in writing with the clerk of the Civil Service Commission within 14 days after suspension, demotion or discharge.
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Trish Mehaffey of The Gazette contributed to this report.