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Iowa Board: Pursuit of Shooting Records Can Continue

Few details have been released about the January 6, 2015 fatal shooting of Autumn Steele by Burlington Police Officer Jesse Hill. An effort to make more information public took a step forward Thursday as the Iowa Public Information Board (IPIB) voted against closing its investigation into the incident.

"This has been a lengthy process and it will continue," said IPIB Executive Director Charlie Smithson. "I think that shows the importance of the issues. The IPIB wanted to do its due diligence throughout the process, to make sure everyone has their ability to get their thoughts and arguments out. It won't be resolved in a week."

  The Burlington Police Department said Hill was responding to a report of a domestic disturbance between Steele and her husband. Steele's dog attacked Hill as he approached the couple. The officer drew his weapon, then lost his balance while firing twice.

One of the shots struck and killed Steele.

Des Moines County Attorney Amy Beavers reviewed evidence for roughly six weeks before deciding not to bring charges against Hill.

The Burlington Hawkeye and Steele's family each petitioned the IPIB for the release of information related to the investigation, in particular the video recordings from Hill's body camera and the dashboard camera of his vehicle. The only video released so far is a 12-second clip from Hill's body camera. It shows Hill approaching the scene and eventually falling while firing shots.

During Thursday's meeting, staff for the IPIB recommended the evidence that has not been released remain private. But on a 4-3 vote, the board rejected the recommendation related to the requests from both the newspaper and Steele's family. Had the votes gone the other way, the information would have remained sealed to the public.

Smithson said the legal system will now get involved through a contested case hearing.

"There will probably be the appointment of an administrative law judge, independent to hear the matters and ultimately determine if there was compliance and if the records should be private or not," said Smithson.

Smithson said the final verdict from the administrative law judge could then be challenged in district court.

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.