Police Body Camera Video Ordered Released in Burlington Police Shooting

Aug 15, 2018

A federal judge in Davenport Tuesday ruled that body camera video and other evidence in a 2015 Burlington police shooting should be made public.

Thirty-four-year-old Autumn Steele was shot and killed by officer Jesse Hill after responding to a domestic abuse call at her home.

The Burlington Police Department and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation have resisted release of the video.

Under Judge James Gritzner’s ruling, the city of Burlington will have 14 days to propose redactions to be approved by the court before the information is made public.

"Government is not going to build public trust in law enforcement by the use of secrecy." -Iowa Freedom of Information Council Ex. Dir. Randy Evans

The family was awarded a $2 million settlement in a federal wrongful death case against the city of Burlington.  The Iowa Freedom of Information Council went to court to have the documents in that case made public, and Judge Gritzner agreed.

“The balance of interests … weighs in favor of unsealing the …. records in this case,” Judge Gritzner wrote.

The city of Burlington and officer Hill argued Iowa law protects the body camera videos, the officer’s medical records, and investigative files.   

The Iowa Freedom of Information Council represents several major Iowa newspapers. 

"Cutting the public off from access only served to cast suspicion on the handling of this case by the city of Burlington, by the county prosecutor and by state investigators," said Executive Director Randy Evans.  "Government is not going to build public trust in law enforcement by the use of secrecy."

The Steele family and the Burlington Hawk Eye newspaper are pursuing a separate case before the Iowa Public Information Board seeking release of the body cam video and investigative files.