Public Safety

Lucas Jones begins appeal to keep his Cedar Rapids police job

Witnesses discuss traffic stop two days before Jerime Mitchell shooting

CEDAR RAPIDS — The first day Tuesday of testimony in Lucas Jones’ appeal of his firing from the Cedar Rapids Police Department included video of a traffic stop he conducted just two days before a more infamous one that has been invoked in protests and a suit against the city.

Video of that Oct. 30, 2016, traffic stop gave little clarity when shown at the hearing, but it plays a crucial role in the department’s case for ousting the officer.

A former patrol sergeant, Jones was fired from the force on June 18 after officials said an investigation into that traffic stop revealed Jones violated policy when he switched off his body-worn microphone.

The video, which was played for the Civil Service Commission, started with muffled, difficult-to-decipher audio that abruptly cut off during the interaction. Jones can be seen reaching into his left hip pocket before the audio cuts off, leading the department to suspect he had deliberately turned it off.

Two Cedar Rapids investigators testified for the bulk of the day, focusing mostly on this traffic stop, the audio issue and the alleged inconsistencies in Jones’ explanations.

Police Capt. Craig Furnish was involved in the department’s internal investigation of the shooting of motorist Jerime Mitchell, who Jones shot and paralyzed in the early morning hours of Nov. 1, 2016 — two days after the other traffic stop.

According to the department, Jones saw Mitchell driving a pickup truck with an improperly displayed license plate — the plate was unlit — and initiated a traffic stop. An altercation ensued between the men and Mitchell drove off with Jones hanging on the driver’s side door. Jones shot Mitchell three times and the truck crashed.

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Jones’ microphone in the Mitchell traffic stop was not working, either — and the police department has made no attempt to explain why.

Black Lives Matter movement protesters this summer have called for Jones’ ouster, but the department has maintained his firing is not related to the protests.

Similar to the Oct. 30 stop involving a different driver, the recording released of the Mitchell shooting is from the cruiser’s dashboard camera — which was able to capture only audio that could be heard within the cruiser.

The investigation in the Oct. 30 traffic stop — and the termination letter that ultimately followed — does not reference seemingly similar audio issues in the Mitchell stop, but it does hint at the possibility of a larger pattern.

During his investigation into the Oct. 30 traffic stop, Furnish said he asked Jones about the audio cutting out. Furnish said Jones denied knowing why the audio malfunctioned, adding that he had no recollection of turning the microphone off himself.

Nearly three years later, during a deposition connected to the Mitchell shooting lawsuit, which has yet to go to trial, Furnish said Jones gave entirely different testimony — now stating he deliberately shut off the microphone to conceal that he was violating debarment policy.

Furnish said he found the inconsistencies concerning, adding “we (police officers) are expected and required to tell the truth, and these conflicting statements did not align as being truthful.”

During his cross examination, Jones’ attorney, Skylar Limkemann, asked Furnish why he didn’t investigate the audio issue back in 2016.

Furnish said that at the time, he was too caught up with the Mitchell investigation.

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In response to a memo Furnish wrote to Chief Wayne Jerman, an internal investigation into Jones’ inconsistency began in February.

Lt. Ryan Abodeely headed that investigation. Tuesday, he testified that he opted to interview Jones himself to determine whether he believed Jones had intentionally lied. But his conversation with Jones was unproductive.

“I wanted to talk to him personally to see what he had to say, and Lucas honestly probably could have easily cleared this up in my interview, and he chose not to do so and continued to tell multiple stories and lie to me directly,” he said.

Abodeely said Jones was evasive, answering direct questions with long-winded answers.

Additionally, Abodeely said Jones reverted to his original story, denying that he had intentionally turned off the audio.

Limkemann questioned Abodeely’s methods, asking the investigator whether he sought clarity from anyone else in the traffic stop.

Abodeely stated he had talked only to Jones and reviewed transcripts of the investigation, video of the traffic stop and Jones’ testimony. He did not contact or speak to the driver in the stop or the officer who was serving as Jones’ back up that night, he said.

In previous interviews with The Gazette, Jones said he had offered to take one or many polygraphs to prove he was not being deceptive.

Ultimately Jones hired Anthony Reistoffer to conduct the test — paying close to $1,000.

Reistoffer also testified Tuesday, outlining his methods and concluding that Jones had been truthful when he answered questions.

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A polygraph examiner of 17 years, Reistoffer said Jones “showed no deception on his test.”

Jason Craig, one of the Des Moines attorneys representing the Cedar Rapids Police Department in the proceedings, called Reistoffer’s methods into question, asking why the examiner did not record video and audio of the testing.

The hearing is scheduled to resume at 8 a.m. Wednesday and will be streamed on the city’s Facebook page.

Comments: (319) 398-8238; kat.russell@thegazette.com

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