CEDAR RAPIDS — Early on Nov. 1, 2016, Cedar Rapids police Officer Lucas Jones, who is white, stopped Jerime Mitchell, who is Black, for a busted license plate light as he was driving a pickup truck along lower Coe Road NE.
After Jones pulled over Mitchell’s truck, the situation escalated to an altercation, and Jones deployed his police dog, according to video taken from inside Jones’ police vehicle. The two men were in a scuffle on the ground at one point, and then Mitchell got back in his truck. Jones pursued him and got caught in the open driver’s side door as Mitchell started to drive away.
Jones fired his gun at Mitchell three times before he broke free from the truck and it crashed into parked cars, authorities said. A bullet that hit Mitchell in the neck left him paralyzed.
Police say they later found a pound of marijuana, scales and cash in a backpack inside Mitchell’s truck, indicating he was on the verge of making a marijuana deal, Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden said on Dec. 6, 2016, when he released the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation report that concluded the shooting was justified.
Vander Sanden also convened a grand jury to consider charges. The grand jury cleared Jones of any wrongdoing.
The police video was released weeks after the incident. It captured images of what happened, but Jones’ body microphone wasn’t functioning. So audio of most of what he and Mitchell said was not recorded.
Later, Mitchell, in a statement to The Gazette, gave a different account than authorities. He said Jones was the aggressor and attacked him “without provocation.”
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In February 2017, Mitchell and his wife, Bracken, sued Jones and the city, asserting the officer was negligent in his decision to stop Mitchell’s truck and in his handling of the incident by using excessive force. The Mitchells also claim the city was negligent in allowing Jones to continue as a police officer because it knows he has a “propensity toward violence” as an officer.
Jones and the city have denied the claims.
What’s happened since
This trial also is one of many stalled by the pandemic. Court proceedings were limited for months, and jury trials were delayed until last month. Civil trials are less of a priority than criminal trials, so those are experiencing further delays. The trial is set for April 19 in Linn County District Court.
Recent developments in the Mitchells’ lawsuit have come after Jones was fired in June, following a monthslong investigation into accusations he violated police department rules and policies.
A letter of termination, obtained by The Gazette through an open records request, showed those violations included lying under oath to internal investigators about an Oct. 30, 2016, traffic stop — just days before the Mitchell traffic stop.
The termination letter sent to Jones — dated June 18 — does not mention Mitchell but hints at a larger pattern.
One of the violations in the letter states Jones testified under oath during a Jan. 16 deposition that he “intentionally turned off his audio recording microphone to conceal that he was (intentionally) violating policy” during that October traffic stop.
Pressley Henningsen, one of the Mitchells’ attorneys, in a motion filed July 27 asked a judge to allow the plaintiffs to take another deposition from Jones and police Capt. Craig Furnish, who investigated the Mitchell shooting. The administrative investigation of Jones started because of his original Jan. 16 deposition in this lawsuit, which Furnish sat in on, Henningsen asserts.
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The department said Jones lied to Furnish about turning off his microphone in an April 13, 2017, interview, which was conducted as part of the Mitchell investigation, Henningsen noted in the motion.
“Facts which are relevant to this case have continued to develop since the initial depositions, including facts related to the credibility of both defendant Jones and the defendant City of Cedar Rapids,” the motion states.
In a separate motion filed Sept. 4, Mitchells’ attorneys want the defendants to provide all information from the police department’s administrative investigation of Jones because that investigation is “intertwined with the facts and discovery conducted in this case.”
Henningsen, in this motion, said the lawyers are entitled to other documents also mentioned in Jones’ notice of termination, which haven’t been made public.
The city is resisting both motions, stating the investigation that led to Jones’ firing “was in no way connected to his conduct” during the Mitchell traffic stop, and Jones’ statements to Furnish were about the Oct. 30 traffic stop.
The Mitchells’ contention that Jones’ firing pertains to the Mitchell shooting is “based solely on the fact” that Jones testified about the October traffic stop in a deposition in this lawsuit.
“But that fact does not make CRPD’s internal investigation in 2020 relevant to the events of Nov. 1, 2016,” Wilford “Bill” Stone, Jones’ lawyer, said in his resistance.
Stone also argued that the Mitchells already had the underlying information of the Oct. 30, 2016, traffic stop, and the opportunity to ask Furnish about it, which they did in the first deposition.
Sixth Judicial District Chief Judge Patrick Grady will consider the motions Oct. 30.
Jones is contesting his firing from the force.
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