CEDAR RAPIDS — For the second time in just over a year, a Cedar Rapids police officer is the subject of a state investigation into an officer-involved shooting.
On Friday, Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation officials announced they had interviewed Officer Lucas Jones about Tuesday’s shooting of Jerime “Danky” Mitchell, 37 of Cedar Rapids, who is in critical condition.
Jones, a five-year member of the department, was one of two officers involved in the Oct. 20, 2015, fatal shooting of Jonathan T. Gossman, 21. In that case, the actions of both officers were deemed justified by Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden.
Cedar Rapids public safety spokesman Greg Buelow said the police department is unable to comment on the ongoing investigation, but noted the ruling that upheld the use of deadly force in the 2015 incident.
According to the DCI and Cedar Rapids police, Jones pulled over Mitchell around 1:15 a.m. Tuesday on the lower part of Coe Road NE in Cedar Rapids. Authorities declined to say what prompted the traffic stop.
Officials said an altercation ensued, which led to Jones firing his service weapon at Mitchell.
Mitchell’s family has said a bullet entered Mitchell’s neck and was lodged in his spine. He remains at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, according to family members.
At the scene, authorities said, Mitchell drove on after the shooting and crashed into an unmarked Cedar Rapids police sport utility vehicle and a parked car.
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Police cruiser dashboard camera video from the night of the incident has been turned over to investigators, but has not been released.
Mitchell’s family members this week asked that peaceful vigils for him not get out of hand.
“We don’t want anyone to get the wrong vibe from it. That’s not what it’s about,” said Dante Land, Mitchell’s nephew. “He wasn’t a violent person so we’re not going to have a violent protest.”
Family and friends of Mitchell have gathered for a couple vigils since the shooting. Another was planned for near the shooting scene. Those attending the vigils have held candles and signs and some asked motorists to “honk for justice.”
Dawn Stephens, the cousin of Mitchell’s wife, said the family has seen comments on social media bashing police.
“There are people that are behaving in ways that do not represent our position,” Stephens said. “It’s terrible, but there’s a right way to handle it and wrong way to handle it. The family is asking for peaceful demonstrations and shows of support. We are not trying to pit race against race or people against police.”
Family and friends of Mitchell say they can’t believe he would have engaged in any violence and describe him as a family man.
Land said some local businesses have reached out to offer support to Mitchell’s family. The family is trying to stay hopeful about Mitchell’s condition, he said.
The DCI is to review the police use of force in this investigation and will present findings to the Linn County Attorney’s Office, which then is to decide whether the shooting was justified.
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In January, Vander Sanden found Officer Jones had acted appropriately in the Oct. 20 fatal shooting of Gossman.
In that case, Jones and his drug-detection police dog responded to a traffic stop that was part of a drug investigation. Gossman was a passenger in a truck and attempted to run from the scene.
During the chase, Jones’ dog grabbed Gossman’s arm and Gossman fell to his side. A second officer, Bryson Garringer, saw that Gossman was pointing a black handgun at him and the police dog, according to Vander Sanden’s report.
Garringer called out that he saw a gun and reported hearing a flash and a clap, which he believed came from Gossman’s gun, Vander Sanden’s report said. Hearing Garringer’s shout and thinking he had been shot, Jones opened fire. Jones fired 16 rounds and Garringer fired nine, Vander Sanden said. Gossman died at the scene.
Gossman was found to be carrying a stolen 9 mm Luger semi-automatic, but there was no evidence he fired it, the report said.
Vander Sanden concluded Gossman pointing the gun at Garringer presented a “clear, immediate and deadly threat to (the officers) lives.”