An Iowa regulatory board is preparing to take legal action against a police department that has refused to release video footage showing an officer fatally shooting a mother instead of her charging dog as the woman’s three-year-old son stood by.
The Iowa Public Information Board decided in a four-to-three vote Thursday to sue the Burlington Police Department over the release of records from January 6, when Officer Jesse Hill shot and killed Autumn Steele, 34.
After he responded to a domestic disturbance, Hill found Steele, who spent the previous night in jail for domestic abuse charges, outside her home screaming and hitting her husband, the Des Moines Register reported.
“Hey, hey! Get your dog!” Hill yells as the family’s German Shepherd, Sammy, growls and barks, a 12-second clip from the body camera footage police previously released showed.
He then fired twice, hitting Steele instead of the dog. Her three-year-old son was by her side when she was shot, according to reports.
The mother of three was rushed to the hospital with a gunshot wound to her stomach, but she could not be saved.
Though the portion of the video released does not show an attack, authorities said that Sammy jumped on Hill’s back and bit his thigh, causing injuries that required medical attention.
The shooting was later determined to be justified because of the attack and Hill was allowed to return to work.
Steele’s family and local media have pushed for release of the full body camera footage, footage from the cop’s patrol car, 911 transcripts and emails, the Register wrote.
“Police have made the claim that they can forever conceal any records of their activity, no matter what they are,” the Steele family’s attorney, Adam Klein, reportedly told the Iowa Public Information Board.
Police and the Des Moines County attorney have said they turned all their records over to state investigators and can’t provide the information to the public, and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation claimed it doesn’t have to release the information since it is part of an investigative file and can be withheld under state law.
But the IPIB has sided with the Steele family and local media and will pursue “contested cases” against those agencies and the Iowa Department of Public Safety.
“I’m, for one, uncomfortable with law enforcement determining what should and shouldn’t be released,” said Information Board member Bill Monroe, according to the Register.
Formal charges against the agencies will be drafted in the coming weeks.