Lyons explains ‘reasonable force’ in Hale shooting

     Following the DCI (Division of Criminal Investigation) investigation of an officer-involved shooting near Hale on Sept. 21, Jones County Attorney Kristofer Lyons was asked to determine whether officers’ actions were justified as reasonable force.

     The incident took place at approximately 7:47 p.m. on County Road E-45. Agencies who responded included: Jones County Sheriff’s Deputies, Delaware County Sheriff’s Deputies, and Iowa State Patrol.

     Annette Bartram called Jones County Dispatch, reporting that her husband, James, fired shots into their residence that was occupied by her and their son. She also reported that her husband had been drinking. These multiple agencies responded, and the Jones County Emergency Response Team (JCERT) was placed on stand-by.

     Those who responded from the Jones County Sheriff’s Office were Deputy Travis McNally, Deputy Sean Snyder, Chief Deputy Brian Eckhardt, Deputy Michelle Gehl, and Deputy Derek Denniston.

     Lyons reviewed body camera footage from several officers, as well as patrol vehicle video.

     When officers arrived, they observed Bartram with a firearm. He was seen pointing it at himself and officers. Eckhardt attempted to negotiate with Bartram to get him to put his firearm down. Roughly 20 minutes was spent trying to negotiate with Bartram.

     When Bartram started approaching law enforcement with his firearm in his hand, State Trooper Tyler Remeley, Deputy McNally, and Chief Deputy Eckhardt repeatedly told him to stop moving or to drop his gun.

     McNally became concerned for his safety and discharged two less-than-lethal Super-Sock rounds toward Bartram’s upper torso. Remeley, also fearing for his life, discharged one round of his service rifle. Deputy Clayton Miller with the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office witnessed Bartram holding onto a handgun and pointing it at police. Miller thought Bartram was going to shoot an officer and discharged his firearm once.

     First aid was applied to Bartram.

     When inspecting Bartram’s .22 revolver, deputies found cotton wedged behind the casing and cylinder, likely the reason the gun did not fire when Bartram pulled the trigger.

     Lyons said, “In order to be justified, the force used by the officer who fired shots must have been reasonable. Reasonable force is that force which a reasonable person, in like circumstances, would judge necessary to prevent an injury or loss and can include deadly force if it is reasonable to believe that such force is necessary to avoid injury or risk to one’s life or safety or the life or safety of another and it is reasonable to believe that such force is necessary to resist a like force of threat.”

     In Lyons’ analysis, the three “officers were justified in shooting at Mr. Bartram” because they were “confronting unlawful force.

     “The law requires that a person must actually and honestly believe they are in imminent danger to use force against another, especially deadly force,” continued Lyons. “All three officers believed they were in danger.

     “A reasonable person would conclude that having a gun pointed at them, after clicks were heard, and after someone who had been previously shooting said gun, means they are in actual danger and imminent danger.

     “Deputy McNally, Trooper Remley, and Deputy Miller were justified in their use of force against Mr. Bartram, and it was reasonable under the circumstances presented on Sept. 21, 2020. Absent further evidence, I consider this matter closed,” concluded Lyons.


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