Police video has proven that an officer lied about being bitten by a dog before he accidentally fatally shot a Burlington, Iowa mother in January 2015, an attorney said Thursday during a federal court hearing according to The Des Moines Register.
Officer Jesse Hill used the nonexistent dog bite to help justify firing the shots that killed 34-year-old Autumn Steele after responding to a domestic disturbance call at the family’s home.
The video clip below shows the Hill fired 2 times after a growling dog is heard. Instead of hitting the dog that never bit him, he hit Steele, fatally wounding her in front of her toddler.
Authorities claimed the German Shepherd jumped on the officer’s back and bit his thigh, so the shooting was determined to be justified by a prosecutor and Hill returned to work without any discipline.
The Des Moines Register reported 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.
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, because it was not shown in court.
Dave O’Brien, a Cedar Rapids attorney who represents the Steele family, said the unreleased video shows no dog bite, and Hill does not even claim to be bitten.
O’Brien said that Hill firing his gun with bystanders nearby was not appropriate.
“This is a tragic case. This officer acted in a way that was entirely unreasonable,” O’Brien said.
Gritzner did not yet make a decision in the case, saying he would issue his ruling at a later date.
The Register said calls to Des Moines County Attorney Amy Beavers and Burlington Police Chief Doug Beaird were not immediately returned Thursday.
Martha Shaff, and attorney representing the City of Burlington, did not respond or comment during the hearing about the lack of a dog bite or any mention of a bite in the video.
Shaff said that Hill faced many unknowns when responding to the call, and suggested that he was reasonable to fatally shoot a woman because of a dog bite that didn’t happen.
“The plaintiffs can’t show the officer’s behavior was unreasonable,” Shaff said.