CEDAR RAPIDS — An early morning traffic stop turned violent when a Cedar Rapids police officer and the driver got into an altercation and the officer shot the man, who then collided with two vehicles before stopping and being hospitalized with severe injuries, authorities said Tuesday.
State officials and relatives identified the driver as Jerime “Danky” Mitchell, 37, of Cedar Rapids. He remained late Tuesday at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics with life-threatening injuries.
The officer’s bullet entered the left side of Mitchell’s neck and lodged in his spine below his voice box, according to Mitchell’s bother-in-law, Jesse Land, 39, of Cedar Rapids, who said he had been to the hospital to see him.
A second Cedar Rapids police officer — who was responding to the shooting scene — suffered minor injuries, authorities said, when Mitchell struck his unmarked police sport utility vehicle.
The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation is investigating the shooting, and names of the officers involved have not been released.
The incident began about 1:15 a.m. Tuesday on the lower part of Coe Road NE near St. Luke’s Hospital, said Greg Buelow, Cedar Rapids public safety spokesman.
The officer stopped the vehicle — authorities declined Tuesday to say why — and Mitchell “began an altercation,” according to a news release from the Iowa Department of Public Safety.
During a scuffle, the officer fired his service gun, hitting Mitchell.
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Buelow said the driver then left in his vehicle, traveling south on Coe Road toward First Avenue E. Near A Avenue and Coe Road, and struck the unmarked police SUV being driven by the responding officer. Still going, Mitchell then struck an unoccupied vehicle in a parking lot off Coe Road and First Avenue, police said.
There, Mitchell was taken into custody and transported to the UIHC with injuries suffered in the shooting and crashes.
Authorities did not say what, if any, charges Mitchell could face.
Friends and family members of Mitchell gathered for a vigil Tuesday night in downtown’s Greene Square. They are not sure he’ll survive.
Several asked for more transparency from police, saying the official account of the incident didn’t ring true.
“It’s not adding up for the people who know him,” said Thomas Clark, 35-year-old Cedar Rapids resident and friend of Mitchell, who described him as coolheaded. “After I heard everything that happened, I was like ‘no, not this man at all.’”
Friends and family compared Mitchell with the television show character Carlton from “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” — an uptight cousin who wore sweaters.
“It’d be like if you heard Steve Urkel got shot by the police,” Land said.
Mitchell was coming home from work when he was pulled over, Land said. Land did not immediately know where his brother-in-law worked, but said that when he didn’t come home on time, Mitchell’s wife went looking for him along the route he usually takes — and came upon the scene.
“I hate seeing my sister like this because they have a really, really close marriage,” Land said.
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Although Mitchell is unable to talk, Land said family members have tried to piece together his version of what happened through his nods to their questions.
Land said he believes Mitchell didn’t exit his vehicle but was shot inside of it. The ensuing crashes, Land believes, were not an attempt to flee but a reaction to the spinal cord injury.
The officer in the SUV that was hit had to be extricated from it. DCI Special Agent in Charge Rick Rahn said the officer was treated and released from a hospital.
The officer involved in the altercation and shooting was not seriously injured, authorities said. He was placed on paid administrative leave in accordance with department policy.
Rahn said DCI officials hope to interview the officer later this week.
“Per standard protocol, we give him at least two sleep cycles and then sit down and attempt to do an interview after that,” Rahn said.
Some at Tuesday night’s vigil asked police to release any squad car dashboard video or surveillance video in their possession. One who asked for more information was Dedric Doolin, president of the NAACP Cedar Rapids chapter.
“We’re not trying to point blame, we’re trying to find solutions,” he said.
This is the second officer-involved shooting in the city this year.
Markell L. Bivins was fatally shot when police responded to the Valley High Apartments, 1735 Edgewood Road NW, on Sept. 12. Bivins was shot after refusing to stop stabbing Raelynn Finn, the mother of his child. The use of deadly force was ruled justified.