Public Safety

Iowa City police officer justified in July shooting, county attorney finds

Officer shot woman in hand after he was struck in face with BB gun, report shows

Iowa City police investigate the scene of an officer-involved shooting July 29 at 1200 S. Riverside Dr., Iowa City. The Johnson County attorney on Monday concluded the officer acted with reasonable force after being shot in the cheek by a woman with a BB gun. The woman is being held at the Iowa Medical Classification Center in Coralville and faces a Dec. 16 competency hearing. (Lee Hermiston/The Gazette)
Iowa City police investigate the scene of an officer-involved shooting July 29 at 1200 S. Riverside Dr., Iowa City. The Johnson County attorney on Monday concluded the officer acted with reasonable force after being shot in the cheek by a woman with a BB gun. The woman is being held at the Iowa Medical Classification Center in Coralville and faces a Dec. 16 competency hearing. (Lee Hermiston/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — An Iowa City police officer acted with reasonable force when he shot a woman who had shot him with a BB gun, the county attorney concluded in a report Monday.

Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness released her findings in the July 29 shooting involving Officer Michael Clark and the woman, Cierra Lewis, 25.

Lewis shot at Clark several times with an air-powered BB gun after being approached by the officer, according to the report, with one of the BBs going through his cheek. Clark then returned fire with his Glock 22 handgun, firing five times and striking Lewis in her left hand, the report said.

Before the shooting, Clark responded to a report of a shoplifter at Starbucks at the corner of Highway 1 and Riverside Drive just before 3:30 p.m.

Clark spotted Lewis, who fit the description of the shoplifter, near the intersection, the report said. Clark attempted to approach Lewis, who refused to stop, and she headed toward a nearby bus stop shelter.

While approaching the bus stop, she picked up a metal mobile power outlet stand, which Clark took away from her and sat down nearby, turning away from Lewis. That’s when Lewis shot at him several times with the BB gun, according to the report, then Clark drew his gun and fired.

As part of her investigation, Lyness said she reviewed video footage from Clark’s body camera and squad car, reports from Clark and other officers, as well as body camera and squad car footage from other officers, among other documents, according to the report released Monday.

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The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation also investigated the shooting, turning its findings over to the county attorney’s office for final review.

“Officer Clark acted appropriately under the circumstances he confronted,” Lyness said in the report. “He was justified in his use of force.”

In her analysis of the shooting, Lyness said she determined Clark’s actions were reasonable in confronting unlawful force.

“I also note that I appreciate Officer Clark’s brave actions in this situation,” she said. “He had been shot in the face, yet acted to protect himself, other responding officers, and the public driving past. He then assisted another officer in subduing (Lewis). His actions may have prevented (Lewis) from injuring herself, others or further harming him.”

Clark has been on paid administrative leave in accordance with department policy while the shooting was under investigation. Monday’s report did not say if or when he would return to work.

Lewis faces charges of willful injury causing serious injury and assault with a weapon on a peace officer. She pleaded not guilty in August.

A competency hearing is scheduled for Dec. 16 in Johnson County to determine if she can go to trial. She is being held at the Iowa Medical Classification Center in Coralville.

She also faces a theft charge related to the shoplifting incident at Starbucks. According to a criminal complaint, a Starbucks employee saw Lewis with her hand near a tip jar and later noticed $1 missing from the jar. A review of surveillance footage showed Lewis taking cash from the tip jar, police said.

She is scheduled to appear in court on the theft charge Dec. 20.

Comments: (319) 398-8331; katie.brumbeloe@thegazette.com

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