Des Moines County Attorney: No Charges for BPD Officer Who Shot Woman

Des Moines County Attorney Amy Beavers has elected not to file charges against the Burlington Police Officer who fatally shot a woman while responding to a domestic dispute in January.

In an eight page memo sent to Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation Agent Matthew George, Beavers lines out her reasoning behind choosing not to file criminal charges against Sergeant Jesse Hill in the death of Autumn Steele.

“After reviewing the complete DCI investigation, there were no criminal charges that applied to the circumstances of this case,” Beavers told KBUR.

According to the narrative contained in the memo, on January 5th, 2015, Autumn Steele was arrested for serious domestic abuse for an assault on her husband, Gabriel Steele. After a no-contact order was filed with the Des Moines County Court between the couple, Autumn Steele was released from police custody.

On the snowy morning of January 6th, shortly after her arrest, Autumn Steele returned to the home she shared with her husband. Gabriel Steele contacted police to report that Autumn was assaulting him.

Hill responded to the scene where he saw Autumn Steele pulling Gabriel Steele’s shirt and hitting him in the back of the head while Gabriel held the couples son. After advising dispatch that two individuals were fighting, Hill activated his body-mounted video camera.

Upon approaching the couple in an attempt to separate the two, the couple’s dog, Sammy, began to growl, ultimately biting the officer on the thigh–an injury that Beavers says was photographed. After asking Gabriel to restrain the dog, Hill drew his gun. The dog continued to approach. This, according to DCI’s investigation, is when Hill fell backwards, firing two shots: at least one of the bullets grazed the dog and struck Autumn in the chest

Immediately after he fell, Hill was apparently not aware that Autumn had been shot until informed by her husband. She died shortly afterwards.

In the memo, Beavers explains that neither murder, nor manslaughter (voluntary or involuntary) , apply to the case. She explains that Sgt. Hill firing his weapon was justified, as the dog, according to eyewitnesses, jumped on Hill’s back. Hill was the only responding officer.

She goes on to explain that Hill did not opt to utilize a taser against the dog due to an incident several months prior where Hill, responding to a vicious animal complaint, used a taser against a Pit Bull which did not incapacitate the animal.

Beavers called the incident a tragedy.

“A very tragic, accidental death,” said Beavers, “[That’s] what I would characterize it as.”

Hill has been on paid administrative leave since the January incident. It’s unknown whether or not he will return to duty with the Burlington Police Department.