A Southeastern Iowa city has agreed to pay $2 million to the family of a woman who was mistakenly killed by a police officer. A federal court was notified this month that the settlement in Burlington was reached in the wrongful death lawsuit.
Autumn Steele, 34, died after she was shot in the chest by police officer Jesse Hill. Hill was responding to a call about a domestic dispute between Steele and her husband outside of their home in January 2015. As Hill approached the scene, he opened fire to protect himself from an attacking family dog. Instead, Hill mistakenly shot and killed Steele.
Shaky police footage shows the moments before the shooting. In the video, you can hear Hill yelling, “Get your dog” to Steele as the dog barks and growls in the background. Steele, on the other hand, screams, “He's got my kid” as her husband runs away from her. Suddenly, the camera tilts towards the sky and two gunshots go off.
In May, the lead attorney for the Steele estate argued that the full video gives no indication that Hill had been bitten or injured before he opened fire, as he claimed in his police report. According to the lawsuit, Hill acted recklessly when he killed Steele and he tried to cover it up by falsely claiming that he was defending himself from the family dog. Hill was cleared of criminal wrongdoing a month after the incident and continues to work for the Burlington police force.
The $2 million settlement does not include the release of additional video, which the family wanted but the police department refused to release. The video, and other records associated with the case, are being sought by the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, which filed a request with the federal court.
Randy Evans, the council's executive director, said, “We believe that the public deserves to be able to see what has occurred and what was being argued by the city and the family.”
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