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Iowa AG Says No Charges Against Burlington Officers in Fatal Shooting; Video Footage Released

The Iowa Attorney General's Office is recommending no criminal charges be filed against two Burlington police officers involved in a fatal shooting this month.

Des Moines County Attorney Amy Beavers asked the AG’s Office to review the investigation. Assistant AG Scott Brown released his findings Thursday, Oct. 12, providing details about the shooting that had previously not been made public.

Following the release of the AG report, the Burlington Police Department issued a statement encouraging members of the public to read the report themselves so they can find out what happened. It can be viewed here.

The department also released the body camera footage from the two officers and dash camera footage from their vehicle. The videos are posted to the city's website. Warning: one contains explicit language.

The city said the two officers involved remain employed by the city and are expected to return to full duty soon.

“The Oct. 1, 2017 officer-involved shooting of Marquis Jones is a tragedy to all involved. City officials continue to keep the many people impacted by this tragedy in their thoughts, including the family of Mr. Jones and the officers involved in the incident,” said the department in its statement.

Details from AG Report

Officers Chris Chiprez and Joshua Riffel were on patrol near S. Central & Elm Streets at about 1:50 p.m. on October 1. Chiprez was training Riffel, who had been on the job for 21 days. The report says both men were in uniform in a marked car.

The officers noticed loud music coming from a vehicle driven by Marquis Jones, 27, of Burlington.

“Jones had a significant criminal history, having been previously convicted of multiple felonies. On October 1, 2017, Jones had three active warrants for his arrest,” per the report.

AG Brown said the officers involved were not aware of the warrants or criminal history.

“However, the existence of the warrants and the fact Jones was a prohibited possessor of firearms would provide an explanation as to why Jones chose to flee the area of the traffic stop.”

The officers decided to follow Jones and eventually pulled over his vehicle for the loud noise violation.

“When Officers Chiprez and Riffel stopped their patrol car behind Jones, they started to exit their vehicle. Jones, without warning, opened the driver’s door of his vehicle and ran north on South 8th Street towards Maple. On the patrol video, it is clear that Jones made no attempt to engage the officers. It is also clear that as he flees, Jones has a black bag in his hand. Chiprez chased Jones on foot while Riffel remained in the patrol vehicle and proceeded east on Vine in an attempt to cut off Jones’s escape,” stated Brown in the report.

Riffel was able to eventually get ahead of Jones. Riffel then exited his vehicle and chased down Jones a couple blocks from the original traffic stop, just out of range of the vehicle dash camera.

“Jones fell twice as Riffel chased him. Riffel can be heard telling Jones to get on the ground. Riffel caught Jones and engaged him in the street by tackling him. As he did so, Riffel observed a gun in Jones’s right hand. Riffel immediately grabbed the arm of Jones’s gun hand with his left hand and a short struggle ensued,” per the report.

“Riffel observed Jones attempt to point the gun toward Riffel’s body. Since Riffel’s service weapon was on his left hip, he had no access to it since his left hand was on Jones’s arm.”

Jones and Riffel continued to struggle before eventually separating themselves.

“When Riffel gained separation, he informed Chiprez that Jones was armed by stating, ‘Gun, Gun, he’s got a gun Chip.’ Riffel’s warning can be heard on both Riffel and Chiprez’s body camera audio. There is no video of the struggle with Jones as Riffel had not activated his body camera and the struggle occurred out of the view of the patrol vehicle. Riffel activates his body camera just before he warns Chiprez that Jones is armed.”

The report states there were a couple witnesses to the struggle who said they saw Jones had a gun while he was trying to elude police.

Chiprez eventually arrives at the scene of the struggle between Jones and Riffel. Chiprez’s body camera shows that he had not drawn his weapon at that point.

“Chirprez observed Jones retrieve a black bag from the street. Chiprez reports that the gun was clearly visible to him in the right hand of Jones. After Jones is observed with the gun and bag, Jones ran east up a short, steep embankment on the east side of S.7th Street. Chiprez continued to observe the gun in Jones’s hand.”

“Both Chiprez and Riffel can be heard giving Jones a command to drop the gun by telling him to “drop it.” Jones did not do so. Just after telling Jones to drop the gun, Chiprez fired seven shots in a span of approximately 4-5 seconds towards Jones.”

The report states that it’s difficult to tell from the body camera videos whether Jones was hit by the shots fired by Chiprez due to obstructions and distance. Asst. AG Brown said it’s also unclear from the videos whether Jones drops his gun.

“After the shots are fired, the officers lose sight of Jones as he flees across the backyard of 619 Maple Street.”

A camera in a nearby alley records Jones running from 619 Maple Street, across the alley, into the backyard of 403 S. 6th Street. Soon after, Chiprez approaches the same alley, seeing that Jones entered the backyard of 403 S. 6th Street.

“It is reasonable under the circumstances for Chiprez to believe that Jones remained armed,” at that point in the pursuit.

Chiprez and Riffel then approached the backyard Chiprez saw Jones enter.

“Although Jones is certainly in the yard, neither of the videos from the officers show a view of Jones in the yard. This is mainly due to shadows in the area Jones is located and the technical limitations of the body cameras. Based on audio from the body cameras’ it is clear that the officers can see Jones and makes a command for Jones to stop.”

Chirprez says he saw Jones laying in the yard on his back before Jones began to rise. Chiprez ordered Jones to stop moving.

“As Jones started to rise, he made a motion with his hands at chest level. Chiprez reports that in his mind, Jones was still armed and as he viewed Jones’s hand movements, he made the decision to fire an additional shot. As Chiprez approaches the yard, he continued to give Jones commands to lie on the ground. Giving this command suggest that Jones remained on his feet at least for a brief time after the shot was fired. The body camera also picks up Jones stating, “You shot me.”

At that point, the report states that officers entered the yard, observed Jones bleeding, and proceeded to provide assistance while calling an ambulance.

Officers found a .45 caliber Glock pistol, a small black bag with marijuana and a scale, and a hat in the backyard of 619 Maple Street. The report states the officers did not know the gun had been dropped there prior to Jones running across the alley.

An autopsy was conducted by Dr. Marcus Nashelsky of the Iowa State Medical Examiner’s Office.

“The results of the autopsy determined there was only one bullet that struck Jones. Any reports of multiple shots striking Jones are false. The only officer to fire his weapon was Chiprez. Any reports that Riffel fired his weapon are false,” said Brown in the report.

“Any reports of shots fired at Jones from a long distance are false. Any reports that Jones was shot in the back are false. There is no credible evidence that Jones had his hands in the air or made any attempt to surrender. Jones presented an immediate and clear danger to the officers attempting to lawfully arrest him and to any other person who lived nearby or happened to be on the street or in the vicinity of Jones.”

Brown concludes the report by stating that reasonable force is determined by what a reasonable person would judge necessary to prevent injury or loss of life.

“It is determined that Officer Chiprez was legally justified under the laws of the state of Iowa in using deadly force on Marquis Jones. The actions of Chiprez were objectively reasonable under the circumstance. Officer Chiprez was confronted with a direct and deadly threat posed by Jones toward himself, fellow officer Riffel and potential bystanders.

“Marquis Jones left Officer Chiprez no other alternative than to shoot under the circumstances. The death of Marquis Jones is determined to be a justifiable homicide under the laws of the state of Iowa. The Iowa Attorney General’s Office considers the officer involved investigation closed. No criminal charges are justified or warranted against Officer Chiprez or Officer Riffel.”

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