Williams v. City of Burlington, Case No. 3:19-cv-00043-SMR-HCA

CourtUnited States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States State District Court of Southern District of Iowa
Citation516 F.Supp.3d 851
Decision Date29 January 2021
Docket NumberCase No. 3:19-cv-00043-SMR-HCA
Parties Altovese WILLIAMS, individually, and as Administrator of the Estate of Marquis Jones, and as next Friend for Minors B.B.D, M.R.J., Jr., D.K.J., M.R.J., III, and M.R.H., Plaintiffs, v. CITY OF BURLINGTON, IOWA, and Chris Chiprez, Defendants.

516 F.Supp.3d 851

Altovese WILLIAMS, individually, and as Administrator of the Estate of Marquis Jones, and as next Friend for Minors B.B.D, M.R.J., Jr., D.K.J., M.R.J., III, and M.R.H., Plaintiffs,
CITY OF BURLINGTON, IOWA, and Chris Chiprez, Defendants.

Case No. 3:19-cv-00043-SMR-HCA

United States District Court, S.D. Iowa, Davenport Division.

Signed January 29, 2021

516 F.Supp.3d 857

David A. O'Brien, Dave O'Brien Law, Cedar Rapids, IA, Andrew Mahoney, Crowley & Prill Law Firm, Burlington, IA, Haytham Faraj, Law Offices of Haytham Faraj, Chicago, IL, Matthew James Reilly, Nicholas Charles Rowley, Trial Lawyers for Justice, Decorah, IA, for Plaintiffs.

Martha L. Shaff, Amanda Mestan Richards, Brandon Wayne Lobberecht, Betty Neuman & Mcmahon PLC, Davenport, IA, for Defendants.



516 F.Supp.3d 858

Before the Court is Plaintiffs’ Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, [ECF No. 90], Plaintiffs’ Motion for Sanctions, [ECF No. 91], and Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment, [ECF No. 92]. For reasons set forth in this Order, Plaintiffs’ Motion for Partial Summary Judgment is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. Plaintiffs’ Motion for Sanctions is DENIED.


A. Factual Background1

The events underlying this lawsuit began shortly before 2:00 p.m. on October 1, 2017, when Burlington Police Officers Chris Chiprez and Joshua Riffel were on patrol in a marked police vehicle in Burlington, Iowa. As the officers approached a four-way stop sign at the intersection of South Central Avenue and Maple Street, the officers heard loud music coming from a red Pontiac G6 driven by Marquis Jones, who was traveling east on Maple Street. Prior to reaching the intersection, Jones turned the music down. Jones then turned on to South Central Avenue traveling south. The officers followed him. Jones drove one block on South Central and then turned east on to Vine Street. The officers followed Jones onto Vine Street but did not immediately initiate a traffic stop. After following Jones for one more block, they initiated a traffic stop near the intersection of Vine Street and South 9th Street for a noise ordinance violation. See Burlington City, Code § 58.10(1)(B) (2015).2 After stopping at a stop sign, Jones crossed South 9th Street and pulled over near the intersection of Vine Street and South 8th Street.

Immediately after pulling his car over, Jones exited the car and ran north on South 8th Street toward Maple Street. Officer Chiprez gave chase on foot. Officer Riffel stayed in the vehicle and drove east on Vine Street to South 7th Street and then north to Maple Street to intercept Jones as he fled. Once he arrived at the intersection of Maple Street and South 7th Street, Officer Riffel observed Jones running east near the corner of Maple Street and South 7th Street. Officer Riffel got out of the patrol vehicle, and ordered Jones to get on the ground. Jones continued to run and Officer Riffel tackled him in the street.

The parties dispute what happened next and, unhelpfully, the events were not captured on video due to the position of the

516 F.Supp.3d 859

patrol vehicle and because Officer Riffel had not activated his body camera.3 Defendants assert that, when Officer Riffel tackled Jones, he was holding a firearm. [ECF No. 92-1 at 3]. Plaintiffs dispute Jones was carrying the gun in his hand when he was tackled, arguing that he usually carried the gun tucked into the back of his compression shorts and it likely fell out of his shorts when he was tackled. [ECF Nos. 112-1 ¶ 13; 112-3 at 37]. After the tackle, Jones resisted Officer Riffel's efforts to take him into custody. [ECF No. 112-1 ¶ 14]. Officer Riffel testified in his deposition that Jones "pointed his gun at me" and "rose the gun towards my head ... while we were on the ground." [ECF No. 112-3 at 29]. In his interview with the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigations ("DCI") the day after the shooting, Officer Riffel told investigators that "[i]t looked like he was tipping [the gun] down towards me." Id. at 49. Officer Riffel stated he was afraid that he would not be able to gain control of the gun, so he shoved Jones off of him and ran in the other direction. [ECF No. 94 at 15] (sealed).

As Officer Riffel was retreating, Officer Chiprez arrived at the scene on foot near the intersection of Maple Street and South 7th Street. [ECF No. 112-1 ¶ 18]. Officer Chiprez did not observe the altercation between Jones and Officer Riffel. Id. Upon his arrival, Officer Riffel shouted "He's got a gun, Chip," to Officer Chiprez. [ECF No. 94 at 27] (sealed). Officer Chiprez testified that Officer Riffel appeared to be "spooked." Id. at 26. After he was released by Officer Riffel, Jones continued running east, over a retaining wall and up a hill between the houses. Officer Chiprez testified that Jones "appear[ed] [to have] dropped [the gun] at some point on the roadway. He came back for that handgun, and then took off running." Id. at 28. It was at this point that Officer Chiprez drew his gun and shouted at Jones to drop his gun. Within seconds of giving the order to drop the gun, Officer Chiprez fired seven shots at Jones, all of which missed. Id. at 33. Jones continued east, running up a slight hill and between the houses as Officer Chiprez fired the seven shots. [ECF No. 112-1 ¶ 25].

As Jones was running away from Office Chiprez, he dropped several items, some of which are visible on the ground in the body camera footage. Among the items Jones apparently dropped was his gun, which was later recovered from that location. Body camera video from neither officer shows Jones dropping the gun. Id. ¶ 39. After shooting at Jones, Officer Chiprez ran to the top of the hill. [ECF Nos. 92-2; 112-3 at 59]. Plaintiffs argue that Officer Chiprez saw the gun laying in the grass where it was later recovered. Officer Chiprez denies he saw the gun. [ECF No. 94 at 39] (sealed).

Instead of following Jones between the houses, Officer Chiprez and Officer Riffel ran north on South 7th Street toward Maple Street and then east on Maple Street. [ECF No. 112-1 ¶ 26]. As Officer Chiprez approached an alley east of South 7th Street he observed Jones enter through a gate to fenced-in backyard. Id. ¶ 29. The parties’ accounts of what happened then again diverge. Officer Chiprez testified that he saw Jones "go to the ground" with his feet pointing "towards the alley." [ECF No. 94 at 43] (sealed). According to Officer Chiprez, after Jones went to the ground, he saw Jones raise up his upper body and move his arms into what he believed to be a "firing position." Id. Plaintiffs argue that,

516 F.Supp.3d 860

having dropped the gun, Jones was going to the ground to surrender. Officer Chiprez then yelled "stop", before firing another round striking Jones in the chest. [ECF No. 92-2 ¶ 17].

Officer Chiprez entered the backyard with his gun still drawn and found Jones lying on the ground with a single bullet wound to the chest. Id. at 2. Jones initially put his hands in the air but soon appeared to lose consciousness. The wound to the chest killed Jones.

Major Adam Schaefer arrived moments after the shooting. Once on the scene, Major Schaefer asked Officer Chiprez and Officer Riffel if Jones had a gun and both officers responded, "he did." [ECF No. 112-3 at 6]. Plaintiffs contend that the responses of both officers about the gun, speaking in past tense, is evidence that they knew that Jones had dropped the gun between the houses as he was ordered to do by Officer Chiprez. Id. ¶ 34. The three officers patted down Jones but did not locate a gun on him. Major Schaefer then asked where the gun was. [ECF No. 92-2 at 2]. Here, both parties strongly dispute what was communicated to Major Shaefer. Defendants argue that both officers said they did not know where the gun was and both gestured toward South 7th Street while recounting Officer Riffel's tackle. Plaintiffs argue that Officer Chiprez and Officer Riffel told Major Schaefer that the "gun was ‘at another location’ while pointing toward 7th St," indicating that was where they believe the gun to be. [ECF No. 112 at 30].

The gun, a Glock .45 caliber, was soon located in the backyard of a house on the corner of South 7th Street and Maple Street, approximately where Officer Chiprez ordered Jones to drop the gun. [ECF No. 94 at 48] (sealed). Recovered next to the gun was a black bag containing marijuana, Jones's hat, and a set of keys. Id. at 54.

The investigation into the incident was led by the DCI and the Iowa Attorney General's Office. Following the investigation, Special Assistant Attorney General Scott D. Brown conducted a review to determine if the shooting of Jones was legally justified. On October 12, 2017, Brown sent a letter to Des Moines County Attorney Amy Beavers informing her that Officer Chiprez was legally justified in using deadly force on Jones. See [ECF No. 92-2] ("Brown Letter"). Brown opined that Officer Chiprez's actions were "objectively reasonable under the circumstances," reasoning that Jones posed "a direct and deadly threat" to "[Officer Chiprez],...

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