A shocking 2015 body camera video of a Burlington Police Department officer shooting a white woman in her yard in front of her young children has emerged online six years later.
Local officials fought a lengthy legal battle in Iowa courts looking to cover the incident up. In 2018, a federal judge forced them to release the video to the public, but it was largely ignored by the mainstream media and activist groups for political and racial reasons. The officer, Jesse Hill, is black, while his victim, Autumn Steele, is white.
Hill, who yells “I’m going to prison” after killing Steele, was never disciplined for the shooting. He testified that the family dog was attacking him, but this was later found out to be a lie. Steele’s family eventually won a $2 million dollar wrongful death settlement in their civil case. Separate litigation over the incident is ongoing due to Burlington’s stubborn refusal to release additional pieces of evidence proving wrongdoing by officer Hill.
While Iowa has open records laws that in theory guarantee public access, police departments in the state force families and advocates to fight expensive legal battles in hopes of deterring requests for video in cases of obvious wrongdoing. The lack of interest from outlets like the New York Times and CNN in police brutality cases when the victim is white also allows them to avoid scrutiny and criticism for this practice.
Jesse Hill continues to work for the BPD as a school resource officer (SRO) at Burlington High School. Seeing Hill’s history of, at best, flagrant incompetence in wielding his firearm, the fact that the local police find it appropriate to allow him to carry a gun around children is an act of mind boggling disregard for public safety.
The decision to keep Hill may be motivated by fear of being accused of racism. The Burlington Police Department is only 2% black, making Hill a prized token that must be kept on the force by all means.
Over half of all police shootings are committed against white people — roughly proportional to the overall white population — despite being significantly less likely to commit crimes (especially violent crimes) than blacks. Because white people are not allowed to have political advocates, discussion on the subject tends to focus exclusively on black figures like George Floyd, while genuine injustices against innocent people like Autumn Steele are ignored.