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Steele Family Sues Burlington Over Fatal Police Shooting

Autumn Steele was shot and killed outside of her home by a Burlington police officer in Jan. 2015. Her family is now suing the city and the officer involved.

Steele’s husband, children and mother filed the lawsuitagainst Burlington and Officer Jesse Hill in U.S. District Court on Nov. 14, 2016. The lawsuit accuses the city and/or Hill of the following:

  • Use of Excessive Force
  • Violation of Substantive Due Process
  • Failure to Trail
  • Wrongful Death
  • Emotional Distress
  • Loss of Consortium

The family is demanding financial compensation for their loss. They want the case to be heard by a jury.
The lawsuit states that Officer Hill responded to a domestic disturbance call at the Steele residence the morning of Jan. 6, 2015. Autumn Steele was violating a restraining order by being at her home.

Hill allegedly saw Autumn Steele arguing with her husband, Gabriel, while Gabriel Steele was holding one of their children.

According to the lawsuit, as Hill approached the couple, the family’s dog approached him.

“Hill unreasonably felt threatened by [the dog] and fired his service weapon in the direction of the family pet and also in the direction of Autumn, Gabriel and [the child]. At the time Hill fired his weapon, Gabriel (holding [the child]) and Autumn were standing in the same direction and within 4’ of the [dog].”

“As Hill was firing the first shot, he lost his balance and fell backward, but continued to discharge his service weapon. Autumn Steel was hit by at least one of the rounds discharged from Hill’s service weapon.”

A roughly 12 second portion of Hill’s body camera video was released, showing Hill’s view as he fell backwards. Local law enforcement has refused to release the entire recording, despite legal challenges.

The lawsuit further states that Hill “fired his weapon in the direction of [the dog], Gabriel, Autumn, and [the child] in an unreasonable, unnecessary and reckless manner, resulting in the death of Autumn Steele.

“Given her proximity to [the dog] and defendant Hill, Autumn being shot was a reasonable and foreseeable consequence of defendant Hill’s actions in firing his weapon in her direction. Defendant Hill made the decision to discharge his firearm at [the dog] at a time when he had the opportunity for deliberation; Hill’s decision was not made in the ‘heat of the moment.’

“Defendant Hill elected to attempt to disable the family dog by firing his weapon in the direction of three people despite the fact that he had several other options available to him, including seeking assistance from Gabriel and/or Autumn to control the family pet, verbal control of the family pet, physical control of the family pet, using a Taser, pepper spray, or retreating to safety.

“Defendant Hill’s actions in firing his weapon in the direction of three people, including a three-year-old child, were so egregious and outrageous as to shock the conscience.”

Roughly one month after the shooting, Des Moines County Attorney Amy Beavers announced that she would not be filing charges against Officer Hill. 

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