CEDAR RAPIDS — Lucas Jones, the former Cedar Rapids police officer appealing his firing over the summer, likely won’t learn if he can return to the force until late November.
Last week, after two days of hearings and roughly 20 hours of witness testimony before the city’s Public Service Commission, attorneys representing Jones and the police department were asked to submit their closing arguments in writing, along with their legal briefs about the firing. Jones’ attorney, Skylar Limkemann, said those documents are due Oct. 26.
The attorneys will each have one week after that to respond to the other’s legal arguments. Those responses will be due Nov. 2.
Limkemann estimated the commission’s deliberations could last weeks after that, and that he didn’t expect a ruling until after Thanksgiving.
Jones was fired June 18 after the department said an internal investigation revealed he had violated policy during a traffic stop on Oct. 30, 2016 and lied about it.
Jones became a lightning rod for the department after a traffic stop two days later where he and motorist Jerime Mitchell got into an altercation that ended with Jones shooting Mitchell, paralyzing him.
In the Oct. 30, 2016, traffic stop at the heart of Jones’ termination, 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 her 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.
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 the stop. That raised the question of whether it malfunctioned or was deliberately shut off.
Roughly 36 hours later — in the early morning of Nov. 1, 2016 — Jones shot Mitchell in a 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. A fight ensued and Mitchell got into his truck and drove away with Jones caught on the door. Jones shot Mitchell three times and he 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 days earlier with that female driver.
Protesters — who took to the streets this summer after Minnesota man George Floyd was killed by police there — have called 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 were a smoke screen. Police Chief Wayne Jerman testified during last week’s appeal hearing that Jones’ termination had nothing to do with the Mitchell case. The department’s timeline says the investigation into Jones began well before Floyd’s death.
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