The Cedar Rapids police officer who shot a black man during a traffic stop last month, leaving him paralyzed, will not be charged with a crime. Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden says a grand jury decided there wasn’t enough evidence to indict Officer Lucas Jones in the shooting of Jerime Mitchell.
Jones reportedly told investigators from the Division of Criminal Investigation that the traffic stop became physical after Mitchell attempted to reenter his truck. Jones tried to stop Mitchell from doing so, and as a result he was caught by the steering wheel and couldn’t remove himself when Mitchell attempted to drive away.
"Officer Jones felt he was still secured to the now moving truck, and feared his life was in jeopardy," says Vander Sander. "He grabbed his service weapon with his right hand and fired three shots at Mitchell's head with the intent to kill."
One of the bullets went through Mitchell's neck.
Investigators did not interview Mitchell, so his version of the confrontation was not presented to the grand jury. Vander Sanden says the DCI made many "good-faith attempts" to contact Mitchell, but ultimately the county attorney decided to go forward with the grand jury due to pressure by the community and concern for the safety of jurors.
Vander Sanden says he had every indication from Mitchell's attorney Paula Roby that DCI agents would be able to interview her client before the grand jury convened.
"When that didn't turn out to occur, then we were left with a decision," says Vander Sanden. "Are we going to call off the grand jury and then try to make these people wait, and come in at a later time, and make the community and the officer wait and hold them in limbo until, if ever Jerime Mitchell gave his statement? I think that we made the best effort that we could."
Iowa Public Radio couldn't reach Roby for comment. But at a community meeting at Mt. Zion Baptist Church following Vander Sander's announcement to not indict Officer Jones, Roby told the Cedar Rapids Gazette that after Mitchell was shot, he didn't have the ability to speak. The paper also reports that Roby was scheduled to take her client's statement on the shooting on December 13.
Several members of Cedar Rapids' black community were present at the announcement, and expressed suspicion and incredulous disappointment at Vander Sanden's decision to go forward with the grand jury despite not having Mitchell's statement.
"All you got is the officer’s version of what happened in the video," says Dedric Doolin, the NAACP president for Cedar Rapids. "It seemed like there was not enough evidence to really go and try to have the grand jury to make a decision. To me it would seem best to have waited."
The Cedar Rapids Police say they’ll release a video of the encounter once Mitchell’s family reviews the footage. Vander Sander says the recording has no audio because the Jones's microphone was not operational.