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Des Moines to Pay $225k to Ryan Bolinger, Shot By Police for “Walking with a Purpose”

— November 24, 2017

The City of Des Moines will approve a $225,000 wrongful death settlement for the family of Ryan Bolinger.

Bolinger was killed by a police officer two years ago, in June 2015.

The 28-year old man had led law enforcement on a low-speed chase through the city after being pulled over in a routine traffic stop. Bolinger reportedly drew his car up parallel to a police cruiser and ignored multiple requests to move his vehicle farther up the road.

Dashcam footage of the incident shows Bolinger briefly comply. He steps out of his vehicle before quickly getting back in.

Driving slowly down a series of Des Moines roads, the man found the path ahead blocked by police cruisers.

Rather than relenting, Bolinger got back out of his vehicle again, running toward Senior Officer Vanessa Miller’s squad car. Apparently fearing that the man might have a weapon, Miller shot him on approach.

An internal investigation cleared Miller of any wrongdoing, although a later search showed that Bolinger didn’t have a firearm and wasn’t in possession of any dangerous tools or weapons.

“This is difficult for the general public to understand,” said Des Moines Police Chief Dana Wingert, who said Miller had simply done what any reasonable person would. “You have to put yourself in that moment.

“Not 20 seconds before, not 20 seconds after. In that moment.” says scanner traffic never suggested that Bolinger might be armed.

Ryan Bolinger. Image via

“But it also didn’t indicate anything about him not being armed,” he said. “That’s where you put yourself in that officer’s shoes. In that split second she has to make that decision. If we want to speculate about why she didn’t do this or why she didn’t do that, let’s speculate if he had a firearm. If he had ill intent, and he does have a firearm, and she attempts to put her car in reverse, now we could be talking about a tragedy in a whole different light.”

But the explanation wasn’t adequate for Bolinger’s remaining family members, who felt the man may still be alive if Miller hadn’t panicked.

They quickly filed a suit, alleging wrongful death, battery, and a host of other allegations.

As the trial proceeded, Des Moines admitted that Miller had lied about the encounter. In early renditions of the story, Officer Miller said she’d warned Bolinger that he’d be shot if he continued toward her car.

In court, it was revealed Miller had issued no such warning, but rather thought “the look on Bolinger’s face” indicated he wished to do her harm.

Miller, for her part, resigned from the department last summer.

The settlement was approved by Des Moines on Monday.


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