Public Safety

Iowa City police justified in officer-involved shooting, county attorney says

Officers fired as man was ramming objects with truck in enclosed business lot

Michael Cintron-Caceres, in custody
Michael Cintron-Caceres, in custody
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IOWA CITY — High on cocaine and using a truck as a battering ram, an Iowa City man ignored verbal commands, a police K-9 and a Taser discharge as officers’ lives were being put at risk inside an enclosed business lot.

“It was a very chaotic scene,” Iowa City police Chief Jody Matherly said. “It was a very unstable scene for a period of time there. It definitely had to be addressed immediately.”

Recognizing that their lives and the lives of their fellow officers were in danger, Iowa City police Officers Travis Neeld and Alex Stricker fired at Michael A. Cintron-Caceres, 34, multiple times.

Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness, in reviewing an Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation overview of the May 9 officer-involved shooting, found Sticker and Neeld were justifed in their use of potentially deadly force.

“I conclude that they acted with reasonable force in defending themselves and others,” Lyness wrote in her report, which was released Friday. “They used the level of force necessary to protect themselves, other officers and the public from the threat posed by Cintron-Caceres.”

Lyness’ conclusions were based on her review of the officers’ written reports, audio and video footage from body and squad car cameras, DCI agent reports, a diagram of the Big Ten Rentals lot where the shooting occurred, and interviews with Neeld, Stricker and Cintron-Caceres.

Lyness also viewed the area where the shooting occurred May 9.

what happened

According to Lyness’ report:

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At 2:07 a.m. May 9, several Iowa City police officers — including Neeld — responded to a burglar alarm at Pizza Hut, 1926 Keokuk St., and found evidence of a forced entry and theft.

While there, another burglar alarm went off nearby at The Second Act, 538 Olympic Court, around 2:27 a.m. Officers responded to that alarm as well.

Police saw a man wearing a red, long-sleeved shirt near the rear of The Second Act. They stopped him, and he identified himself as Javier Delgado, who was later identified as Cintron-Caceres.

Cintron-Caceres ran, jumped over a wooden fence and scaled a chain-link fence surrounding Big Ten Rentals, 1820 Boyrum St.

Stricker and a detective investigating a previous robbery involving Cintron-Caceres heard the radio traffic and drove to Big Ten Rentals.

The officers were able to enter Big Ten Rentals by forcing open a gate around 2:39 a.m.

Neeld deployed his K-9 partner, a German shepherd named Luke, into the lot and announced that “you will be bit.”

Neeld, Stricker and two other officers entered the gated area and searched for Cintron-Caceres.

Neeld found the man in the back seat of a Ford F-450 pickup in the lot and ordered him to show his hands.

“Instead of showing his hands, Cintron-Caceres climbed over the seat to the driver’s seat and started the truck,” the report reads.

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Cintron-Caceres was ordered to stop but refused to do so and rammed a large trailer in the lot. He backed up and hit equipment behind the truck, forcing Neeld to move out of the way.

Cintron-Caceres continued to smash the truck into objects in front of and behind him multiple times. Neeld and Luke also were in an area where they could not get away from the truck and that had no solid objects to shelter behind.

“The officers reported being extremely concerned for their safety and the safety of other officers, believing they would be hit by the truck or by an object Cintron-Caceres struck,” the report states.

Noticing the rear window of the was broken, Neeld shot his Taser at Cintron-Caceres but did not make contact with him.

He then shouted he would have to shoot Cintron-Caceres, and Stricker told him to “do what you have to do,” according to the report.

Neeld fired twice, but Cintron-Caceres continued to ram the truck. He fired eight more times, but Cintron-Caceres continued. Concerned he could no longer see or hear Neeld, Stricker fired twice into the truck, causing Cintron-Caceres to stop.

Because they could not open the truck doors, officers removed Cintron-Caceres through the passenger side window. He was taken to the hospital and treated for two gunshot wounds — one to each shoulder.

In an interview with the DCI, Cintron-Caceres admitted to being nervous when he first encountered the police because he was high on crack cocaine. He told the DCI agent he tried to drive away from police and did not understand why he was shot or why police did not use a Taser.

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“He then acknowledged he may have been shot because of how he was driving the car,” the report states. “He repeated he was just trying to get away from the police but did not know why.”

back to work

Neeld and Stricker have been on administrative leave since the shooting, in accordance with police department policy.

Matherly said the officers have been moved to desk duty while the department conducts a standard internal investigation to ensure policies and procedures were followed.

The chief said he expects the officers to be back on full duty “in the near future.”

Matherly said all the officers were fortunate to have walked away uninjured.

“When you’ve got a vehicle of that size, moving with that kind of speed and causing that kind of damage and officers are pinned in a small area along with that vehicle, nothing good was going to come out of that until that vehicle stopped,” he said. “Eventually, they had to take the appropriate action and discharge their firearms and neutralize that threat.”

Cintron-Caceres has been in custody since May 14 on two counts of first-degree robbery, third-degree burglary and assault on peace officers, relating to an April 30 robbery at Romantic, when he was armed with a screwdriver, and a May 7 robbery at Suburban Amoco, when he was armed with a knife, according to criminal complaints. He also is charged with forgery, accused of forging a check May 1.

l Comments: (319) 339-3155; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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