WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Lack of Transparency in Death Investigation

Jun 2, 2015

The Des Moines Register sharply criticized Burlington, Des Moines County, and the state of Iowa for concealing information about the January death of Autumn Steele.

She was accidentally shot by police officer Jesse Hill, who was responding to a call about a domestic dispute.  County Attorney Amy Beavers decided not to press charges against the officer. 

Burlington police released a 12-second video from Hill’s body camera, but the Register’s editorial argues authorities should release more video, a transcript of a 911 call related to the shooting, and emails about the shooting.

Shop Talk panelist Rich Moreno said anyone else who accidentally shot someone would likely be charged at least with involuntary manslaughter.  He said authorities should be more forthcoming about the reasons why no charges were filed in this case.

Moreno also said Steele’s family would like more information released. Police and prosecutors’ refusal to do so could lead people to believe authorities are trying to cover up something embarrassing.

Panelist Rich Egger agreed more information should be made public. He said there should be no issue with releasing the 911 audio and/or transcript if the investigation is completed.

Panelist Jasmine Crighton believes Iowa law needs to be retooled if it allows the information to be withheld.  She said state law is preventing transparency and accountability, and she said it’s important for journalists to fight decisions like this.