Cedar Rapids Officer-Involved Shooting Justified, County Attorney Says

By Lee Hermiston, Reporter

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By Richard Pratt

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- The teen shot last September by a Cedar Rapids police officer was drunk, possibly high and out of control leading up to that fateful encounter.

Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden said Tuesday that officer Zachary McKinstry was justified in shooting Matthew Johnson, now 18, on Sept. 21 at Advance Auto Parts.

"Deadly force was reasonably necessary when the officer was confronted with a clear and immediate threat to his life and safety as well as the life and safety of another," Vander Sanden concluded in his report.

According to Vander Sanden's report:

Investigators with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, which led the probe into the shooting, determined the events leading to Johnson's shooting began the night before. Johnson allegedly attended two parties that night and continued partying into the early morning hours of Sept. 21. Investigators learned Johnson was drinking beer and whiskey and might have smoked some pot, though he couldn't remember.

Johnson was asked to leave the second party, but he became combative, assaulted one of the other party-goers and threatened to hurt others in attendance. He was finally kicked out of the party at 7 a.m.

Authorities said Johnson then walked a short distance to Advance Auto Parts, 3910 Center Point Road. Advance employee Bradley S. Rosch told investigators he was at the store at the time, preparing to open up for the day, when he heard a commotion coming from the parking lot. Around that same time, witnesses inside the nearby Spring House Restaurant called 911 to report a white man - later identified as Johnson - "kicking the crap out of a new Dodge," the ruling states. The man appeared to be "messed up," the caller reported.

Rosch told investigators he went out to the parking lot and saw Johnson leaning on Rosch's 2009 Dodge Challenger. When Rosch asked Johnson if he was okay, Johnson began to swear at him and chase him into the store.

Authorities said Rosch was able to retreat into the store, but Johnson kicked in the glass in the door and entered the business. Rosch called 911 and retreated behind a second set of doors, which Johnson also kicked in. Johnson then chased and attempted to assault Rosch before the employee hid behind a display bin.

McKinstry arrived on the scene at 7:07 a.m. and witnessed the broken front door. After hearing the commotion inside and seeing the second broken door, McKinstry drew his sidearm, authorities said.

McKinstry told investigators he saw Johnson attempting to assault the employee, drew his weapon on him and ordered him to the ground. The order was repeated several times, authorities said. At this time, Johnson began to approach the officer and said, "Oh, you're going to pull a gun on me?"

As Johnson continued to approach the officer, McKinstry warned him several times to stop or he would shoot. Authorities said Johnson was making "furtive movements" around the waist of his clothing as he closed the gap between him and McKinstry. The teen was within five feet of the officer when McKinstry fired three times, hitting Johnson in the left lower chest, left forearm and left thumb.

"Officer McKinstry indicated that he was fearful for his safety given the defendant's irrational and bizarre behavior as indicated by the information from the initial dispatch and the suspect's violent and erratic conduct at the scene," Vander Sanden wrote.

A second officer, Justin Boecker, arrived on scene in time to hear the shots fired. Boecker called in the shots, requested an ambulance and entered Advance Auto Parts, where he helped McKinstry provide medical assistance to Johnson, authorities said. While waiting for the ambulance to arrive, Johnson repeated, "Kill me, kill me," according to the report.

First responders arriving on the scene said Johnson was "restless, uncooperative and combative in general." Though he denied any use of drugs, Vander Sanden's report indicates Johnson was later tested and showed to have a blood-alcohol content of .255 percent and he tested positive for THC, the active component of marijuana.

Johnson was released from the hospital on Sept. 30 and, a month later, was charged with second-degree burglary and second-degree criminal mischief for his actions at Advance Auto Parts.

Vander Sanden wrote in his report that McKinstry was "clearly justified" in drawing his weapon and firing upon Johnson.

"During the short encounter, Officer McKinstry had little time in which to react and certainly did not have the opportunity to switch to a less lethal form of defense," Vander Sanden said.

Vander Sanden, Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman and public information officer Sgt. Cristy Hamblin could not be reached for comment Tuesday morning. McKinstry's status is currently unknown. He has been on administrative leave from the department since the shooting.

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