Des Moines, IA — In June 2018, the taxpayers of Burlington, Iowa were told that they will be hit with a $2 million bill to pay for a police officer who shot and killed an innocent mother. The tragic scenario was captured on video and the fact that most of that video remained a secret was part of the reason the family received the settlement in the wrongful death suit. However, all that has now changed.
In May, during a federal court hearing in Davenport, Iowa, officials revealed that the confidential police video—a key piece of evidence in exonerating a cop who killed the innocent mom—did not corroborate the cop's claims he made before firing the fatal shots that accidentally killed the mother of two.
Now, we have the evidence showing this was true.
As TFTP previously reported, the Burlington police department released a 12-second clip from a Burlington Police officer's body cam showing him shooting and killing Autumn Steele.
The alleged dog bite was a key component in the case which allowed police officer Jesse Hill to be justified in firing the shots that killed Steele in January of 2015. According to the official story, the German shepherd jumped on Hill's back and bit his thigh, causing him injuries which required treatment.
The shooting was ruled justified and Hill was not disciplined, according to investigators, because Hill was in fear of his life during the dog attack and therefore did nothing wrong when he fired his weapon multiple times—hitting Steele in her chest, killing her.
There is only one problem though, the video does not show any of this. Burlington Police, the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and the Des Moines County Attorney have all refused to release the entire video, and we now know why. As the Des Moines Register reported in May:
In a separate legal battle, the Iowa Department of Public Safety and the Burlington Police Department have been charged with violating the state’s open records law for refusing to release the full video, saying it is part of an investigative record and is confidential.
The video was not played in open court Thursday. But Chief Judge James Gritzner of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa allowed attorneys in the case to describe pieces of the unreleased footage.
Not only does the unreleased video show no bite, but Hill never says that he had been bitten — a direct contrast to what he wrote later in his report, Dave O’Brien, a Cedar Rapids attorney who represents the Steele family, said during the hearing.
The city claims they kept the video secret this entire time because its position is to keep “peace officers’ investigative reports, such as the body camera video in this case,” out of the public eye.
The city’s attorneys have “resisted the public disclosure of this video and the other records to be released” because such videos and records “are legally considered ‘confidential’ under Iowa law,” a statement released this week said.
“We believe these are records the people of Burlington have a right to see,” said Adam Klein, a Georgia lawyer who represents Steele’s family. “When the County Attorney and his (Hill’s) superiors say ‘he didn’t do anything wrong’ the people have the right to know the facts. The facts released before today were far from complete and far from honest.”
The tragic incident unfolded that fateful January day as Gabriel Steele, Autumn's husband, was loading up their 4-year-old son, when Autumn began yelling at Gabriel and the police were called.
"He's got my kid!" yells Autumn.
Officer Hill was at the Steele residence acting as an escort in their domestic dispute incident. During this commotion, the couple's dog came running out of the house.
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"Hey, hey, quit fighting, stop it," says Hill.
In the video, we can hear the dog growl, at which point Hill says, "Get your dog." Only moments later, Hill fired off two rounds.
One of the shots struck Autumn Steele in the arm and another in the chest. The dog was also hit, but he recovered. In a previous version of this story, the Free Thought Project reported that the dog was not hit. However, new information shows that he was.
Below is the original 12-second video released by police. It does not show the entire story.
Below is the entire video. As claimed by the attorneys for the Steele family in June, the video does not show the bite, nor does it show the officer ever mention the bite. However, it does show the officer concerned that he will might go to jail for what he just did.
“Where are you shot, ma’am? Ma’am, ma’am where are you hit? Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God,” the transcript shows Hill called out.
A few moments later, he tells a fellow officer: “ Oh s**t Tim. I’m f**king going to prison. Oh my God.”
But Hill had completely forgotten at the time that cops rarely go to prison for killing people—even innocent unarmed mothers.
Shortly after the killing, 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.
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 and now, we are finding out that there is an alleged cover up, and the only people that will be held liable are the taxpayers.