An Iowa police officer said he was being attacked by a dog when he mistakenly shot and killed a woman in 2015. Body camera footage released on Wednesday does not confirm that account, but it shows that the officer slipped on the ice while discharging his weapon.
In January 2015, Burlington Police Officer Jesse Hill responded to a domestic violence call at the home of 34-year-old Autumn Steele. Steele was reportedly seen hitting her husband in front of their house. Hill said the couple's German Shepherd, Sammy, jumped on him and bit him after he approached Steele. He said he mistakenly shot Steele in front of her 3-year-old son while attempting to shoot the dog. She later died as a result of her injuries.
At the time, the Burlington Police Department released a 12-second body camera video of the incident, which shows Hill shooting without warning. He can be heard saying, "Get your dog," but the video does not show Sammy jumping on the officer. The police report did not include statements from witnesses who said Sammy was not displaying aggressive behavior. Although Hill reported "the sensation of being bit" in a write-up of the incident, medical records and a picture of Hill's leg taken at the hospital showed no puncture wounds. Hill nevertheless was cleared in the shooting.
Steele's family accused police of using Sammy as a scapegoat and demanded more footage. Last month, after a three-year legal battle, Judge James Gritzner of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa ordered the city to release the entire video, which was made available on Wednesday. It shows Hill slipping on ice as his weapon fires. When Hill picks himself back up, the camera shows Sammy standing behind Steele's son. Hill is heard worrying about "going to prison."
The video is available via the Des Moines Register. It may be disturbing to viewers.
Earlier this year, the city agreed to pay Steele's family $2 million to settle a civil lawsuit.
Photo Credit: Screenshot via Des Moines Register