The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation has completed their investigation of Burlington police officer Jesse Hill's killing of Autumn Mae Steele and shooting of the Steele family dog, Sammy. The investigation includes physical evidence such as body and dash camera footage from Jesse Hill, crime scene evidence and interviews with Hill, the Steele family and neighbors who witnessed the killing. Based on Iowa's legal procedure for these types of investigations, the local county prosecutor has the ability to either proceed with handling the case herself, or passing the case along to the Iowa Attorney General's Office.
County Attorney Amy Beavers
In this case, the county prosecutor is Amy Beavers. On Friday, Beavers announced to local Burlington media that she has decided to handle the investigation herself. Beavers also added a few additional details to her announcement. Here is how local radio news station KBUR described those details:
"Des Moines County Attorney Amy Beavers said this(Fri) morning that she has spoken to a lawyer for the family of Autumn Steele and Atty. Adam Klein did not express any concerns about Beavers’ office further investigating the January 6th fatal shooting of the 34-year old Burlington woman by city patrolman Jesse Hill."
Local newspaper The Hawk Eye offers the following:
"Beavers said before making her decision to resolve the issue herself, she spoke with Klein, who she described as an attorney for Steele’s family. Beavers said Klein indicated he had no concerns about her making the decision on whether Hill’s actions were within the law without input from the attorney general’s of!ce. 'I talked to him about noon (Friday) and asked him if he had any concerns about me handling the decision myself,' she said. 'He said he didn’t. The only concerns he had was about the dog’s situation and when the documents (DCIreport) would be released.'”
These details are important; the day before this press release, Amy Beavers had told reporters from The Hawk Eye that she would:
"[...] talk to the victim’s husband, Gabriel Steele, before making a decision herself as to whether the shooting was justified or not [...] or asking the state Attorney General’s office to review the case first."
So if Beavers had spoken to Klein, and Klein was in fact an attorney for "the Steele family", then Beavers would have lived up to her promise to discuss the matter with the Steele family before deciding how to proceed.
The problem is that Adam J Klein does not represent "the Steele family", and took immediate and public umbrage to being described as such.
Attorney Adam J. Klein
Klein represents Steele's seven-year-old son Kai Schoff, one of Steele's sons. There are two other attornies representing various interests: one for Autumn Steele's mother, and a third lawyer for husband Gabriel Steele. Here is how Klein describes it:
"I am not 'a lawyer for the family of Autumn Steele,' nor did I ever claim to be. I represent her son Kai. Autumn’s husband and their son and Autumn’s mother are represented by other lawyers. She knew that, and she knew who they were and how to reach them. Her statement to the press that she spoke to a 'lawyer for the family' is a naked attempt to hide the fact that she broke her promise to discuss the matter with Autumn’s family members before coming to a decision."
Perhaps Beaver's oversight here could be forgiven. However, Klein feels there is more at work here than simply a misrepresentation of whose lawyer is whose.
"I in no way intended to convey to Ms. Beavers that I, or Autumn’s family, approved of her blocking the Attorney General’s investigation and handling this matter herself. When I hung up the phone this morning, I hadn’t decided yet. I don’t know Ms. Beavers, and I felt that she deserved the chance to review the evidence, make up her own mind, and tell me what she thought before I came to any conclusions about her judgment or her competence and whether the Attorney General would do a better job of investigating this case than she would."
Klein goes on to detail how Beavers told him that she had yet to review the evidence in the case during their conversation; yet, an little over an hour after they spoke, Beavers was giving a press conference describing how she had decided to handle the case herself, and that Klein and the Steele family had OK'd her decision. Here is how Klein voices his concerns:
"It never once occurred to me that Ms. Beavers would make this decision without even pretending to look at the evidence or reach out to the family. [...] The unopened boxes on Amy Beavers’ desk are the result of an extensive investigation by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation. DCI interviewed Ofc. Hill, spoke to witnesses, and visited the scene. They conducted forensics, pored over dispatch logs, and reviewed the autopsy findings. They watched footage from dash cams and body cams and probably a lot of other things. I don’t know exactly what they found, because right now, the only person who gets to look at that report, and evaluate the actual evidence, is Amy Beavers. Hers is the first set of hands into which DCI put that report because she is supposed to use it to make a well-informed decision about who can best move this case forward.
Apparently, she just can’t be bothered.
We deserve better than justice in about an hour. My client is seven-year-old boy who doesn’t have a mother anymore. Gabe Steele and his four-yearold son Gunner watched their wife and mother bleed to death before their eyes. This is not an easy case. Autumn Steele, her family, and the people of Iowa deserve a fair and thorough investigation into Ofc. Hill’s actions. By making this decision without reviewing any evidence, without consulting the family, in the time it takes to get a pair of discount eyeglasses, Ms. Beavers has made it clear that she will not provide one."
Adam Klein's entire press release is available for download on our website.
If Amy Beavers is so busy that she cannot spare the time to communicate with the family of the victim of her highest profile case, it seems strange that she would not ask the Attorney General's office for a bit of assistance. Beavers' reply?
"“This is what I was elected to do. It’s is my statutory duty to make decisions like this. I do not think I need the attorney general’s assistance.”