However, according to a story by Gazette reporters Adam Belz and Aaron Hepker, two eyewitnesses saw something quite different. According to their story "the 26-year-old homeless man was not wielding a knife and did not lunge at anyone, said Brock Brones and Mike Tibbetts, both of Iowa City."
Brones and Tibbetts, who both work for a telecommunications company, got off work Friday at 7 p.m. and drove with another co-worker to Old Capitol Brew Works to have a drink. As their vehicle was coming out of the alley next to City Electric, which was blocked by bags of cans and bottles and some broken glass, they saw the episode unfolding to their left and turned off the radio so they could hear what was going on.
A skinny black man was laying on the pavement with his head against the tire of a car about 40 feet away. He was missing teeth, his clothes were dirty, and he had blood on his torso. The deputy, wearing civilian clothes, had a gun pointed at the man, and a third man was standing next to the deputy telling him to shoot, Brones and Tibbetts said.
The homeless man on the ground appeared to be drunk. The deputy told him not to get up, or he would shoot, Brones and Tibbetts said.
"I don't give a f---," the homeless man responded.
The deputy repeated the threat, and ordered the man not to get up. Again, the homeless man said he didn't care. Then he stood up, put his arms out, and stumbled a few feet to the side before the deputy shot him in the chest from about 15 feet away, Brones and Tibbetts said.
The two men insist the homeless man had no knife when he was shot.
"There was no knife. There was no lunging," Tibbetts, of Iowa City, said."(The deputy) didn't try to talk him down. He shot him dead, right in front of my eyes."
Brones said the homeless man was wobbling and, though he disobeyed the deputy, he never made a threatening move.
"It wasn't aggressive," Brones said. "He was just drunk."
Police squad cars soon arrived, and the deputy, who Tibbetts said looked stunned, held up his badge for police to see.
Police have not identified either the deputy or the man he killed. Johnson County Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek has declined to comment. The deputy has been placed on administrative leave.
“It’s just standard operating procedure following a traumatic incident such as this, until the outcome of the Iowa City police and DCI investigation,” said Sgt. Dan Quiles of the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office.
It started, police said, when a patron and his wife left the Hawkeye Hideaway on Prentiss Street and saw a 26-year-old man fiddling with bags of cans and bottles in the alley next to City Electric. An argument ensued, police said, and the 26-year-old, who is homeless, stabbed the patron, who friends identified as John Bohnenkamp, a University of Iowa maintenance worker and a regular at the Hawkeye Hideaway.
The deputy, who was not in uniform, drove by the scene in a tan-colored vehicle, police said, stopped, jumped out, drew his gun, and trained it on the homeless man.
From then on, the detailed account Tibbetts and Brones gave The Gazette is at odds with the police account, particularly in how it describes the moments before the deputy fired his gun.
"He could hardly stand," Brones said of the homeless man. "He was just wobbling."
Bohnenekamp underwent emergency surgery Friday night at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, and was released Saturday. Bohenenekamp has declined comment “Stop calling me, because I’m not going to say a word,” he said.
In a town that has been rife with racial tension and prejudice against the homeless, this story is likely to raise some questions. Hopefully there will be a fair, transparent investigation into the events that transpired.