Jerime Mitchell shooting: one year later
The police shooting of an unarmed black man one year ago in Cedar Rapids had many people calling for change. Today, not a lot is different between police and the black community. A dash camera captured the shooting in the early morning hours of November first.
Officer Lucas Jones pulled over a truck near the Coe College campus. Jerime Mitchell, who goes by the nickname ‘Danky,” was driving the truck. Jones claimed he smelled marijuana and tried to arrest Mitchell. That's when a struggle broke out.
Mitchell tried to drive away but Officer Jones, who was caught in the car door, fired three shots, hitting Mitchell in the neck and paralyzing him. Prosecutors ultimately decided not to charge either Officer Jones or Mitchell.
A year later, Mitchell spends a lot of his time in rehab. His lawyer Larry Rogers Junior says he's made some strides, but still has a long road ahead.
He says, "Jerime has some significant needs going forward. He’s gonna need some rehabilitation care. He's gonna need some physical therapy, occupational therapy."
Covering Mitchell's medical costs is one issue in his lawsuit against the city, but the heart of that lawsuit is clearing Mitchell's name. He and his attorney argue there was no reason for police to pull over Mitchell, and that Officer Lucas Jones was the aggressor. They want that side to come out. To this day, Mitchell has never gotten a chance to tell his side to investigators.
Rogers adds, "Airing out, showing and having a jury of your peers really hear and see what happened that day and hear what should have happened that day from a law enforcement standpoint."
Mitchell is also not happy that Jones is back in uniform. He came back from administrative leave in June. Mitchell was the second person Jones shot in as many years.
Rogers says, "He is off the charts with respect to how frequently that happens, even in major metropolitan areas. So I think the city of Cedar Rapids needs to look long and hard about the risk they're exposing the citizens to, and their department to by have Officer Lucas Jones on the streets."
A year later the decision not to charge Jones still stings for many in the black community. Head of the Cedar Rapids NAACP Dedric Doolin says, "I'm not the judge, I'm not the jury I don't get to make that decision, but based on what I saw and on what a lot of the community feels like, that was not a fair outcome."
Betty Andrews from the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP adds, "Justice has not been served. That's what goes through my mind at this time"
In the wake of the shooting, community leaders started regular meetings with police from across the area. They put together twelve steps for addressing criminal justice and police reform. But so far, nothing concrete has changed.
Andrews says, "In terms of doing a good job, Have all of our proposals have been met? Our proposals have not been met, but we're still in the discussion stage."
Andrews says police have given them documents on their hiring practices, and how they handle traffic stops. She adds, "They can certainly increase the diversity on their payroll. We are also looking at the possibility of having a citizen’s review board. We are looking at the opportunities for officers to live in the communities they police.”
Cedar Rapids Police are holding an implicit bias training session in November. It's a start, but local leaders say more needs to change.
Doolin says, "A one-time training is not going to make people experts, is not going to change the world overnight. There's an ongoing process. If you have an implicit bias training you got to continue to reinforce.”
Doolin adds that building better relationships with police is a two way street. He says, “We gotta look at what is our role you know we gotta start preparing people for interacting with law enforcement. You can't go out and cuss at an officer, and threaten officers."
Rogers says Mitchell is trying to stay positive through his tough time, but is looking forward to presenting his side to a jury. Rogers says, "Settlement is even not a topic of discussion right now at this point. There's a lot of things that need to be flushed out, aired out and investigated more thoroughly.”
Cedar Rapids police declined to comment on the story because of the lawsuit.
Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden says Mitchell should have been able to give his side, and that he had many chances to. He says that the family attorney eventually agreed to an interview date after the grand jury was scheduled to meet, but cancelled that interview.
He adds in a statement:
“In the meantime, the public was kept in the dark about what happened and many were clamoring for the release of the police dash-cam video. The video could not be released before the grand jury met. Protesters were marching on City Hall demanding action and release of the video. Some were spreading false accounts on social media claiming police shot Mitchell before he even had a chance to exit his truck. I concluded the public deserved answers and that the police video was key to the case. I would have done things differently if there wasn’t a video of the entire incident. The police video captured equally the actions of the police officer and Jerime Mitchell from the start to the end of their encounter. The grand jury reviewed the video at length and concluded there was no basis for charges against the officer.”
Mitchell's wife Bracken said in a statement that Officer Jones may not have killed Mitchell, but he took his life, adding that nothing for them will ever be the same.