Public Safety

Federal appeals court upholds ruling in favor of Cedar Rapids police in 2015 fatal shooting

Judges find no constitutional violations, no excessive force

Cedar Rapids police officers work the scene Oct. 21, 2015, of an overnight shooting in the 3200 block of Ravenswood Terr
Cedar Rapids police officers work the scene Oct. 21, 2015, of an overnight shooting in the 3200 block of Ravenswood Terrace NW in Cedar Rapids. Officers shot and killed Jonathan Gossman, 21, of Cedar Rapids, as he was fleeing from a drug-related traffic stop. A U.S. appellate court has upheld a ruling in a lawsuit brought by Gossman’s family that exonerated police in the shooting. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit has upheld a ruling in favor of police in the 2015 fatal shooting of a Cedar Rapids man who was shot 24 times by officers during a traffic stop for suspected drug activity.

The court affirmed U.S. District Chief Judge Leonard Strand’s ruling that the four officers involved didn’t violate constitutional rights or use excessive force against Jonathan Gossman, who refused to get out of a vehicle Oct. 20, 2015, after officers learned a shotgun was in the vehicle.

Strand made the summary judgment ruling last year in the lawsuit filed by Gossman’s mother, Twyla McElree, and his wife, Mikaela Gossman, against the city of Cedar Rapids and the police department.

The lawsuit argued officers fired 25 times at Jonathan Gossman, 21, of Cedar Rapids, as he was “fleeing from an unlawful arrest” following a traffic stop in the 3200 block of Ravenwood Terrace NW. The suit claimed the officers lacked probable cause to stop the vehicle and used excessive force as Gossman was fleeing.

The appeals court ruled the police had reasonable suspicion to believe Gossman and the others were involved in criminal activity.

Officers knew the individuals traveling together in a truck had separately bought pseudoephedrine and knew they had been involved in the making and using of methamphetamine, according to the ruling.

Officers Brandon Boesenberg and Bryson Garringer had set up surveillance in the parking lot of Walgreens, 3325 16th Ave. SW, to monitor purchases of pseudoephedrine, according to the ruling. The officers watched Gossman and two others in Ford F-150 pickup go into the store at different times and buy pseudoephedrine.

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According to the ruling, when the truck left the parking lot, Boesenberg and Garringer followed and contacted another officer, Nathan Juilfs, to help make a traffic stop.

Juilfs asked for a K-9 unit — Officer Lucas Jones, who was fired from the department last summer, and his dog, Bane — to respond with them.

During the stop, officers asked the driver and another passenger to get out and found the driver had a knife, meth pipe and prescription bottle, which he gave to officers.

Juilfs then questioned Gossman, who was in the back seat and intended to search him, according to the ruling. He told Gossman to hold up his hands, and Julifs removed a knife on a lanyard around Gossman’s neck.

The driver then told the officer that a shotgun was in the back seat, and several of the officers drew their firearms and told Gossman to get out of the truck. Gossman refused.

Gossman got out and started “moving,” but Boesenberg, who still had his gun drawn, couldn’t restrain him with one hand. He released Gossman to avoid accidentally firing, the ruling states. Gossman then started running. Jones and his dog and Garringer chased after him.

Jones and Garringer both said they noticed Gossman kept holding the front of his waistband as ran from them. The officers were yelling for him to stop, but after a short chase, the dog caught up and bit Gossman on his arm.

As Gossman fell, Garringer said Gossman pulled a firearm from his waistband, the ruling states.

Garringer yelled “gun” and thought he heard a “clap and saw a flash of light,” believing Gossman had fired at him. Jones and Garringer both started firing at him.

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Gossman died at the scene, the ruling stated. The medical examiner’s report showed Gossman was shot 24 times.

An investigation stated Gossman had meth in his system, and his 9 mm handgun was loaded but hadn’t been fired.

The fatal shooting was investigated by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and reviewed by Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden, who ruled the use of deadly force was justified.

This is the second lawsuit filed against the city and police department over a fatal shooting by officers.

Jerime Mitchell and his wife also filed a suit after Jones shot him during a traffic stop in November 2016. The shooting left Mitchell paralyzed. That suit is pending, and the trial has been reset for April 19.

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. The city’s Civil Service Commission denied Jones’ appeal of that firing in November.

Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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