Autumn Steele ,Des Moines Register Newspaper,Iowa ,May 28th,2015. .This is what Families go through when Cops Kill .Sharing Article with those who keep up with our daughter Autumn Steele's shooting death by Burlington Iowa Cop Jesse Hill. Secrets and Cover Up.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the scandalous manner in which city, county and state officials have responded to Steele's death. Together, they've engaged in a deliberate, protracted effort to conceal information about the shooting and the so-called "investigation" that resulted in no charges being filed against the shooter, Officer Jesse Hill.
Officer Hill was responding to a domestic violence call at Steele's home on the morning of Jan. 6. He had just emerged from his squad car and was beginning to speak to Steele and her husband, when the family's German shepherd began barking and jumping on Hill. The officer immediately drew his weapon and attempted to kill the dog, but lost his footing as he began firing. Steele was struck and killed by at least one of the officer's bullets.
Des Moines County Attorney Amy Beavers chose not to charge Hill with any criminal wrongdoing, although Iowa law clearly states that a person who "unintentionally causes the death of another person by the commission of an act in a manner likely to cause death or serious injury" is guilty of misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter. Choosing to draw and fire a gun in the middle of such a volatile situation could fit that definition.
DES MOINES REGISTER
Relatives demand detail on killing by Burlington police
The Iowa Department of Public Safety then released 12 seconds of body-camera footage shot by Officer Hill, but decided to keep secret a transcript of a 911 call related to the incident; other body-camera and dashboard-camera footage at the scene; and emails about the incident.
The department is able to do all of this only because Iowa legislators stubbornly refuse to change the state law that gives police agencies the ability to forever keep secret all of their "investigative" materials in a case — even when there is no active investigation. The local agencies involved in the Steele case, including the Burlington Police Department and the Des Moines County Attorney's Office, claim they turned over to the state all of their own records related to the case, without keeping copies for their own use.
It's worth noting that nothing in Iowa law prohibits the Department of Public Safety from making the requested records public. When it comes to investigative files, disclosure is merely discretionary. That is, the agency has the choice of either releasing the records or keeping them confidential.
The default choice, of course, is secrecy. And in this instance, the task of defending that choice has fallen to Jeff Peterzalek, an assistant attorney general who says the unreleased portions of the video should be kept confidential because they show Steele in a state of partial undress and receiving medical treatment.
"I can't imagine a family would be real happy with the disclosure of video of their family member ultimately dying," Peterzalek told the Iowa Public Information Board last week.
Protesters rally April 13 in front of the Des Moines County Courthouse in Burlington. The crowd was calling for the resignation of Burlington Police Officer Jesse Hill, who shot and killed a woman while firing his gun at her family’s dog. (Photo: Josh Newell//Burlington Hawk Eye file photo)
Peterzalek's feigned concern for the Steele family is galling. The family has a complaint before the Public Information Board, seeking full disclosure of the requested records. Steele's mother, Gina Colbert, has publicly called for the full and unconditional release of the videos and other documents, and has written a newspaper column to that effect.
Perhaps the attorney general's office knows that it would be hard to argue that Iowans are well served by government agencies that seek to bury the records tied to fatal police shootings that, by all accounts, are entirely unjustified. So it has instead decided to argue, at the public's expense, that this sort of secrecy serves the interest of those who are killed, or their families.
Give the attorney general's office credit: What it lacks in credibility, it makes up for in creativity.
It should go without saying that records related to killings and mistreatment at the hands of armed government agents should be treated as public documents. And it would go without saying if our attorney general advocated for the people rather than his clients in state government.
But, alas, this is Iowa, where it took a lawsuit to force the state to release records pertaining to Michael Zubrod, a Charles City man who died in 2013 after being subjected to multiple Taser jolts administered by Worth County deputies.