A state administrative law judge yesterday heard arguments in the ongoing public records conflict pitting the Burlington Police Department and the Iowa Department of Public Safety against the Iowa Public Information Board. The Board has been seeking the release of evidence in the fatal shooting of Autumn Steele at her home in Burlington in January of 2015. Law enforcement released 12 seconds of the policeman’s body camera video.
Jeffrey Peterzalek, an attorney representing law enforcement, argued Burlington Police have complied with the open records law.
“The video that was provided in this case shows the entire incident from the time the officer left his vehicle until the time Mrs. Steele was shot. That is the incident,” he said of the 12-second-long video. “They have the video of the incident. They have seven pages of description of the incident.”
Mark McCormick, the attorney hired by the Public Information Board, argued other evidence should be released.
“They have not shown that there will be any harm to the public interest if they tell the truth about what they’ve got in their files and disclose what they’ve got in their files and let the public see what they’re withholding,” McCormick said.
Burlington Police Officer Jesse Hill was responding to a domestic abuse call when he shot at a German Shepherd that was attacking him in Autumn Steele’s yard. One of the two bullets he fired struck the woman in the chest. The county attorney ruled no criminal charges would be filed against Hill for his response to a threat.
The Burlington Hawkeye and Steele’s family have been seeking the public release of more information about the case. Law enforcement officials argue releasing more records from the investigation would have a “chilling effect” on getting witnesses to come forward in the future.
(Reporting by Iowa Public Radio’s Joyce Russell; additional reporting by Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson)