- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 6, 2016

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - A white police officer will not be charged in a shooting that left an unarmed black motorist paralyzed and sparked protests in Iowa’s second largest city, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

A grand jury declined to return an indictment against Cedar Rapids police officer Lucas Jones in the Nov. 1 shooting of Jerime Mitchell, Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden said, marking the second time since last year that Jones has been cleared after using deadly force.

The decision infuriated supporters of Mitchell, who had questioned whether the shooting was justified and called for Vander Sanden to appoint a special prosecutor. Mitchell, 37, remains hospitalized in Lincoln, Nebraska, with a bullet lodged in his neck.

Mitchell’s attorney, Paula Roby, criticized Vander Sanden for concluding the investigation without interviewing her client, who regained the ability to talk in recent weeks. She had arranged to have Mitchell’s statement taken next week and said Mitchell’s family was “shocked and disappointed” by Tuesday’s announcement.

Vander Sanden confirmed investigators haven’t spoken with Mitchell but said they tried to do so. He said the grand jury made its decision after hearing testimony Monday. He called on the public to accept the outcome, which he called fair.

The prosecutor said Jones was trying to defend himself against a confrontational Mitchell during a routine traffic stop.

The investigation revealed that Jones pulled over Mitchell near Coe College early on Nov. 1 because both light bulbs on his license plate were burned out. As Jones approached Mitchell’s pickup truck, the officer smelled a strong odor of marijuana, Vander Sanden said.

Mitchell was angry about being stopped and cursed at Jones, then eventually heeded orders to get out of the truck after locking himself in it, the prosecutor said. Jones told Mitchell he intended to detain him and reached for his handcuffs before the two began to scuffle, Vander Sanden said.

Mitchell tried to get back into his truck, with Jones clinging to his body and yelling at him not to drive, Vander Sanden said. As the vehicle began to move, Jones grabbed his service weapon and fired three times. One bullet immediately paralyzed Mitchell, who lost consciousness.

A backpack in Mitchell’s truck contained a pound of marijuana and text messages suggested he was on his way to deliver it when stopped, Vander Sanden said. Mitchell will not face charges “in the interest of justice,” despite having marijuana in his system, the prosecutor said.

With the investigation over, dashcam video of the encounter will be released after Mitchell’s family reviews it, police spokesman Greg Buelow said.

Mitchell’s supporters, using his nickname, have led a “Justice for Danky” campaign calling for the video’s release and questioning whether Jones racially profiled Mitchell and was too quick to use force.

Rosevelt Milam, a brother of Mitchell’s, called Tuesday’s announcement “ridiculous.”

“I think people will be protesting all over the city,” he said, adding that Vander Sanden should have stepped aside given his role clearing Jones in a shooting last year.

Vander Sanden announced Nov. 18 that he would convene a seven-member grand jury to determine whether charges were warranted. Grand juries, which operate in secret, are rarely used in Iowa.

Jones, an officer since 2011, has been on leave since the shooting. In October 2015, Jones and another officer shot and killed 21-year-old Jonathan Gossman, who allegedly pointed a loaded gun at them during a foot chase. Vander Sanden ruled that the officers “were clearly reasonable in their belief that lethal force was necessary.” Jones shot 16 times at Gossman, who was white.


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