BURLINGTON, Iowa -- Burlington, Iowa, has agreed to pay $5 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the mother of a man who was shot to death by police nearly five years ago, the two sides said Thursday.
The settlement comes nearly five years after Officer Chris Chiprez shot and killed 27-year-old Marquis Jones.
Police stopped Jones on Oct. 1, 2017, for allegedly playing music too loudly, and police say Jones ran away with a gun in his hand. Chiprez fired several shots at Jones, saying in reports that Jones had refused orders to drop the gun. Jones fled into a backyard, followed by Chiprez, who fired a final shot that struck and killed Jones.
Chiprez said in reports that he thought Jones was armed and was unaware that Jones had dropped the gun about 50 yards (45 meters) from where he was shot. But lawyers for Jones’ mother, Altovese Williams, said police body camera video and autopsy results showed that Jones was nearly prone on the ground when he was shot.
“I’m not aware of a settlement larger than this in the state of Iowa for a wrongful death, civil rights claim,” Cedar Rapids attorney Dave O’Brien, who represented Williams, said in a statement. “We believe the city’s agreement to settle for their policy limits shows that they understand that the shooting and killing unarmed people in Burlington needs to stop.”
Police Chief Marc Denney declined to comment on the settlement, but he did confirm that Chiprez remains on the police force.
“He's an officer in good standing who has been with the force for 20-plus years,” Denney said.
In March, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Chiprez was not entitled to qualified immunity in the lawsuit, citing body-camera footage that appeared to show Chiprez looking directly at items — including the gun — dropped by Jones while running after him. The appeals court also noted that autopsy results did not support Chiprez's assertion that Jones was in an upright “firing position” when he shot him.
The Davenport law firm of Betty, Neuman & McMahon, which is representing Chiprez and the city, didn't immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment.
Burlington is a city of 24,000 people, located on the Mississippi River about 140 miles east of Des Moines.