National Freedom of Information Coalition
Protecting Your Right to Open Government

Judge orders city to give up full video in case of Iowa mom killed by cop

A federal judge has ordered Iowa to release video and other records in the 2015 police shooting death of Burlington mother Autumn Steele, a ruling that could open more law enforcement video to public inspection.

Burlington Police officer Jesse Hill accidentally shot Steele after he responded to a report of a domestic dispute during which he said an aggressive dog attacked him.

Hill slipped on ice when the weapon fired and shot Steele, who was standing next to her toddler.

Authorities released abbreviated footage of the shooting from Hill’s body camera.

But for more than three years, and despite the request of Steele’s family, the city of Burlington and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation has blocked public release of other records in the case, including the entire police video of the incident.

Hill was never disciplined in the shooting, partly because of his report that he was being attacked by the family dog. That account has been challenged by the family, who say records and video do not support Hill’s claim.

The case is seen by some open-records experts as a litmus test concerning police powers, specifically about whether Iowa law enforcement may suppress from the public unflattering footage captured by police dashboard or body cameras.

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