Public Safety

Davenport motorcyclist sues former state trooper, accuses him of assault

Dashcam video released when other excessive force allegations were made

TIPTON — A Davenport motorcyclist is suing a former state trooper — whose testimony in other matters has been questioned — saying the trooper pointed a gun at him and assaulted him during a traffic stop two years ago.

Bryce Yakish, of Davenport, then 20, was riding his cycle on Interstate 80 about 11:15 p.m. on Sept. 25, 2017, when he stopped at a gas station near the West Liberty exit, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Cedar County District Court. Yakish made a left turn at the end of the exit ramp and headed to a station a few yards away.

Trooper Robert Smith pulled his vehicle into the station and ran as he aimed his gun at Yakish, who was standing beside his cycle, the lawsuit said. Smith assaulted the 150-pound Yakish by “knocking him over and onto his motorcycle.”

According to the lawsuit, Smith grabbed and dragged Yakish away from his cycle, still turned over on its side, and placed his knee on Yakish’s neck, holding him on the ground.

A dashcam video shows Smith struggling to pull up Yakish from the concrete driveway. He stumbled backward and fell. Yakish was doubled over and did not touch or fight with Smith.

The lawsuit states Yakish was arrested on charges of eluding and reckless driving, but contends Smith never saw Yakish before he left I-80 and couldn’t have seen how fast he was going.

A dashcam video shows that Smith didn’t turn on his lights and sirens until he was pulling into the station. Yakish is never seen until he is turning into the gas station.

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Yakish lost his driver’s license as a result of the “false charges,” and required chiropractic treatment for his neck injury, the lawsuit shows.

In the lawsuit, Martin Diaz, Yakish’s lawyer, said Smith made false statements in his written complaint. They included:

• Yakish was going 84 mph in a 70 mph zone, according to radar.

• Yakish accelerated to a very high speed when Smith pulled out to catch up with him.

• Smith drove more than 100 mph trying to reach Yakish.

• Smith activated his lights and siren at that time.

• Yakish, as he took the West Liberty exit, ran a stop sign at the off ramp and then attempted to make a “U-turn” as Smith pulled up behind him at the gas station.

• Yakish admitted he sped up — “105 to 110 mph” — after passing the patrol vehicle.

The dashcam video was released when other complaints were made about Smith by the Cedar County Sheriff’s Office, the lawsuit shows.

The Cedar County Attorney’s Office released the video, following a records requests, according to an Associated Press report in July. The office issued a disclosure — a Giglio notice — to indicate Smith may not be a credible witness because of previous inaccurate testimony.

Smith, a 30-year veteran, retired from the Iowa State Patrol in 2018 after an internal investigation. He went to work as a police officer in Durant, where his wife is the mayor, but resigned in July after the City Council met in a closed session to consider his employment status, according to the Des Moines Register.

Allegations of excessive force and false testimony came to light when Cedar County Sheriff Warren Wethington banned him and other Durant officers from bringing defendants to the jail in May, according to the report.

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Court records show the eluding charge against Yakish was downgraded to reckless driving, and he paid a $250 fine. An eluding charge requires that a driver must be speeding 25 mph over the limit and fails to stop when given a visual or audible signal, according to Iowa law.

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

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