Linn County Metro

Linn County attorney: Police justified in Oct. 20 fatal shooting

Jonathan Gossman was killed during a drug investigation

Cedar Rapids police officers work the scene of an overnight officer-involved shooting in the 3200 block of Ravenswood Terrace NW in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015. Evidence markers can be seen at right. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Cedar Rapids police officers work the scene of an overnight officer-involved shooting in the 3200 block of Ravenswood Terrace NW in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015. Evidence markers can be seen at right. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — A Cedar Rapids police officer believed he saw and heard a gun being fired in his direction, prompting him and a second officer to open fire on Jonathan Gossman, killing him.

While no evidence was found that Gossman fired at the officers, the presence of multiple firearms and the nature of the traffic stop for drug-related activity heightened the sense of danger in the fatal encounter, leading Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden to rule the use of deadly force during the Oct. 20 incident was justified.

“During the foot-chase, officers were plainly confronted with a clear, immediate and deadly threat to their lives and safety when Gossman turned and pointed a black pistol at Officer (Bryson) Garringer and the drug detection dog,” Vander Sanden wrote in the ruling issued Wednesday. “At that stage of the confrontation, officers were clearly reasonable in their belief that lethal force was necessary to defend themselves and were legally justified in firing their service weapons at Jonathan Gossman.”

Vander Sanden’s ruling also sheds additional light on the circumstances that led to the traffic stop and fatal shooting.

According to the ruling:

Officers Brandon Boesenberg and Bryson Garringer were monitoring pseudoephedrine purchases through an application in their unmarked squad car. Pseudoephedrine is an ingredient in the manufacturing of meth. Both officers were in plain clothes, but wearing marked police vests.

The officers’ duties brought them to the parking lot of the Walgreen’s at 3325 16th Ave. SW. Police said Gossman was the passenger in a truck parked at the drugstore. The driver of the truck and a passenger were observed leaving Walgreen’s after having purchased a 48-count box of pseudoephedrine. After two other subjects — believed by police to be involved in the meth trade — approached the truck, Gossman was observed exiting the truck and purchasing more pseudoephedrine. After Gossman’s purchase, the truck left the parking lot.

Officers followed the truck to the Road Ranger convenience store on 16th Avenue and drop off a passenger. When the truck exited the convenience store, officers began to follow the truck with the intent of pulling over the driver. Authorities said the driver drove at a fast rate of speed through “various streets.” Officers initiated a traffic stop on Ravenwood Terrace NW and the driver pulled over, the ruling stated.

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The driver told officers that she was on the way to see her dad and the front seat passenger told police the truck was not stolen and owned by his grandparents. Police asked the driver and front seat passenger to exit the truck so they could speak with them separately. At this time, police discovered a lanyard around the passenger’s neck, containing a knife, a pipe used to smoke meth and prescription pills.

At this time, Sgt. Nathan Juilfs arrived as back up and requested a K-9 officer to respond to the scene.

Juilfs spoke with Gossman, who was also wearing a lanyard containing a knife around his neck. Gossman told Juilfs they were “just driving around,” and also claimed to have been followed by someone who was making threatening phone calls to him. During their interaction, Juilfs noticed Gossman appeared nervous and “made several furtive movements toward the waistband of his pants.”

After learning a shotgun was under the back seat of the truck, police ordered Gossman out of the truck. Gossman initially “defiantly refused” to get out of the truck, the ruling states. Once he was out, Gossman pulled free of an officer’s grip and fled down the sidewalk.

Police said as this was occurring, officer Lucas Jones arrived with his drug-detection dog, a Dutch Shepherd. Seeing Gossman flee, Jones ordered his dog to pursue and detain Gossman.

Jones and Boesenberg chased after Gossman, who refused orders to stop. Vander Sanden noted this pursuit was not captured by any dash cameras.

After a short chase, Jones’ dog latched on to Gossman’s left arm in the driveway of 3216 Ravenwood Terrace and Gossman fell to his left side. As Gossman fell, Garringer noted Gossman was holding a black handgun in his right arm. The weapon was pointed at Garringer — who was 4 to 5 feet away — and the police dog.

“(Garringer) immediately yelled, ‘Jesus, gun!’” Vander Sanden wrote. “He also reported seeing a flash and hearing a clap, which he believed came from Gossman firing the weapon at him.”

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Hearing Garringer’s shout and believing Garringer had been shot, Jones — who was 3.5 to 4 feet away from Gossman and could see he was holding a gun — opened fire with his .40 caliber Glock 22. Jones emptied his 16-round clip at Gossman. Garringer fired nine times. Gossman was pronounced dead at the scene.

Vander Sanden said Gossman’s gun, a stolen 9 mm Luger semi-automatic, was damaged in the volley of gunfire.

“Even though Officer Garringer had reported seeing a flash and hearing a loud clap, there was no physical evidence discovered by investigators showing that Gossman had fired his weapon,” the report states.

A 12-gauge shotgun — also determined to be stolen — was found in the truck, along with drug pipes, syringes, a machete and ingredients and materials used to make meth.

The other passenger in the truck reported smoking meth with Gossman the day of the fatal shooting. Others who were interviewed after the shooting reported that Gossman had carried a handgun and expressed concerns over his involvement with methamphetamine. His autopsy confirmed the presence of meth and amphetamines — a metabolite of meth — in Gossman’s body, the ruling stated.

The fatal shooting was investigated by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, which is common practice. Their report was turned over to Vander Sanden on Nov. 17.

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