CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — An unarmed black driver struggled with an Iowa officer and a police dog before the officer shot the motorist as he tried to get away in his pickup truck, paralyzing him, dashcam video released Thursday shows.
Driver Jerime Mitchell managed to get back inside the vehicle with officer Lucas Jones clinging to his body by the open driver's side door. The video shows Jones shooting Mitchell at close range after the truck starts to roll.
The video seems unlikely to resolve a debate over whether the Cedar Rapids policeman acted appropriately during the Nov. 1 shooting of the 37-year-old Mitchell. A Linn County grand jury decided Monday not to indict Jones. County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden said the video shows that Mitchell resisted Jones and the officer fired in self-defense.
Mitchell disputes that account, arguing that the officer was the aggressor. His supporters have blasted the prosecutor for ending the secret grand jury inquiry without obtaining any statement or testimony from Mitchell, who is hospitalized with a bullet lodged in his neck and unable to move most his body.
"I was unarmed. I never struck the officer, or the dog. This has changed my life forever," Mitchell said in a statement released Wednesday. "No one should ever be treated the way I was that night."
After keeping the dashcam video from the public during the investigation, the Cedar Rapids Police Department released it to news media Thursday. The conversation between Jones and Mitchell can't be heard. Police said Jones' body microphone wasn't working.
The video shows Jones pulling Mitchell over at 1:17 a.m. Investigators say Jones initiated the stop because the light bulbs that illuminate the license plate on Mitchell's truck were burned out — an $87 infraction. Police have said that Jones asked Mitchell to get out of the vehicle after smelling marijuana.
After Mitchell gets out, Jones stands behind him and begins to handcuff him. The two exchange words and Mitchell appears to resist being cuffed. Jones pushes Mitchell against the truck, then takes him to the ground.
With the officer clinging to his back, Mitchell gets up from the ground. The barking dog runs toward Mitchell, but it's not clear if the animal bites him.
Mitchell climbs back inside the vehicle with Jones holding on to him. Jones reaches for his gun, then the truck begins to roll. Jones fires three times before falling to the street as the truck speeds off.
Vander Sanden said Jones feared the truck would run him over. He said Mitchell could have avoided being shot had he complied with the officer.
Betty Andrews, president of the Iowa-Nebraska chapter of the NAACP, said the video showed "high-level inconsistencies" with the prosecutor's account. She said Mitchell's license plate lights appear to be working and that Mitchell initially cooperated by handing the officer his identification and getting out.
"Why was Jerime stopped and why was he pursued so aggressively?" Andrews said. "We have grave concerns when this video and what was presented to us by the county attorney are like night and day."
Mitchell's brother, Rosevelt Milam, said the video supports Mitchell's claim that the officer threw him against the truck, took him down, released his police dog to attack, and shot him as Mitchell tried to get away from the officer and the animal.
Mitchell disputed the prosecutor's claim that he cursed at Jones and dared him to release the dog. Mitchell said that the audio of the encounter "would tell a completely different story" if available.
Mitchell didn't address the prosecutor's claim that he had a pound of marijuana and was on his way to make a drug deal when stopped. But he said he was portrayed "completely different from my true character."
His wife, Bracken Mitchell, said Mitchell's hospital stay will be covered by insurance through Jan. 10, and it's not clear what will happen then. She said the couple likely won't be able to stay in their home because her husband will need different accommodations.
Jones, an officer since 2011, remains on leave while the department conducts an administrative investigation into the shooting, police spokesman Greg Buelow said.