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Verdicts & Settlements

Iowa Cop Kills Mother of Three, Family Receives $2M Settlement

— June 26, 2018

Iowa Cop Kills Mother of Three, Family Receives $2 Million Settlement

34-year-old Autumn Steele was supposedly accidentally shot and killed in 2015 by officer Jesse Hill who was responding to a domestic disturbance call at her home.  Hill claimed he had accidentally fired at the women after a German shepherd attacked him unexpectedly and he attempted to shoot at the dog.  Steele was struck in the chest and arm, and Hill also hit the dog, but the family’s pet survived.  Steele, a mother of three young children, was holding her toddler when she was fatally shot, and after the incident, her family filed a wrongful death lawsuit. The Iowa Public Information Board voted to sue the Burlington Police Department after officers refused to release a full-length video of the incident.

The family had claimed that Hill shot his weapon in an “unreasonable, unnecessary and reckless manner,” contrary to the officer’s claims.  They are now set to receive $2 million as part of a settlement.

Dave O’Brien, the family’s attorney, called the settlement vindication for “the Steele family’s claim that Hill acted wrongfully in causing Autumn’s death.” He added, “However, everyone should know that cities and their insurance carriers do not pay $2 million to settle a claim unless they have concluded the claim has significant merit.”

Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash

Steele’s mother, Gina Colbert, of Columbus, Georgia, said the amount was “recognition” by both the city and Hill that the officer “acted in a wrongful and unjustified manner in shooting and killing my beautiful daughter.”  The family felt the defense’s story was an attempt at a department-wide cover-up.

Only a 12-second clip of the incident from Hill’s body camera has been publicly released.  Attorneys for Steele’s estate argued last month in federal court that police video that’s been withheld from the public contradicts the official narrative that the dog bit Hill. The full video does not seem to coincide with Hill’s account of the incident at all, they argued.

Colbert of traveled to Iowa in May to demand the “full and unconditional release” of the records, saying authorities were defying the law.  “Her family and the people of Burlington deserve to know the truth,” Colbert said during a rally in Burlington.  Steele’s family and the Burlington Hawk Eye have sought a number of records in the case, including the complete dash cam and body camera videos, 911 transcripts, and emails.

“The Department of Public Safety has fully complied with the law,” Jeff Peterzalek, a state attorney, said before the board.

Adam Klein, an Atlanta attorney for one of Steele’s young sons, said authorities were showing “callous disregard for good people who deserve better.”  He added, “Police have made the claim that they can forever conceal any records of their activity, no matter what they are,” and said, “if ever there was a case that merited a full hearing before this board, this is it.”

Amy Beavers, the Des Moines County attorney, ultimately cleared Hill of all criminal wrongdoing a month after the incident occurred.  Hill continues to work as an officer for the Burlington Police Department.  He has received no further reprimand.


Police officer shot mother-of-three dead while attempting to shoot her dog

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