Burlington, IA -- Two months ago the Free Thought Project broke the story of Autumn Steele, an Iowa mother who was killed by a police officer in front of her husband and child.
Gabriel Steele, Autumn's husband, was loading up their 4-year-old son, when the couple's dog came playfully running out of the house. Officer Jesse Hill was at the Steele residence acting as an escort in a domestic dispute incident when he saw the dog and feared for his life. He then pulled his sidearm and fired off at least two rounds.
Witnesses say that at this time the dog was being playful, but apparently still threatened the officer which caused him to draw his pistol and begin shooting.
One of the shots struck and killed Autumn Steele.
"The dog startled the officer. The officer began shooting at the dog. The officer was still shooting when he fell down in the snow," one witness told The Hawk Eye Newspaper.
"It appeared he was shooting at the dog when (the officer) fell to the ground. It's my belief the woman was shot accidentally," said another witness.
Last week Des Moines County Attorney, Amy Beavers released a seven-page report detailing the reasons why Officer Hill will not face charges for killing Autumn Steele.
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According to the Des Moines Register:
Beaver’s report makes reference to her rationale for not charging Hill with crimes that clearly aren’t supported by the evidence, such as felony involuntary manslaughter, which requires the commission of some other crime at the time of the homicide, and murder. Her report makes no mention of misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter, which is imposed in cases where a “person unintentionally causes the death of another person by the commission of an act in a manner likely to cause death or serious injury.”
In her report, Beaver cited the fact that Hill is a police officer. Beaver says that he was in a difficult situation in which he was trying to stop a domestic dispute as well as protect himself from a dog. Being that he was a police officer, in this situation, he is entitled to special treatment, according to Beaver.
Does Beaver's logic make any sense at all?
This was a clear-cut case of one person negligently taking the life of another person.
Try to imagine a situation in which a non-police officer shoots and kills their neighbor in their front yard, either accidentally or not. Then try to imagine this non-police officer escaping any and all accountability. It would not happen.
Police officers are supposedly highly trained professionals, prepped to make hasty decisions in volatile situations. This is a claim that we hear all the time from the police themselves as well as supporters. Being able to make this claim means that holding them less accountable than the average citizen, should never occur.
Because of their monopoly on the use of force, cops should be held to a much higher standard of conduct than the average citizen. Unfortunately, this is almost never the case.
The precedent set by the court's decision, to let this officer off Scott Free, is worrisome. It has now become common practice for police officers to avoid all accountability by simply hiding behind the thin blue line.