Saturday, September 26

Investigation Over, But Is Justice Served?

The report from Iowa's Attorney General exonerates the Johnson County Deputy Sheriff who used deadly force in killing John Deng on July 27th. Based on corroborated evidence from nine of "at least a dozen" witnesses on the scene, the deputy, Terry Stotler, tried to separate a knife wielding Deng and John Bohnenkamp and both men failed to heed his orders to stop.

According to the report, Stotler identified himself and drew his handgun as the two men fought on Prentiss Street. Stotler intervened between the two men and trained his gun on Deng. Stotler told Deng "Sheriff's Department. Drop the knife!" He ordered Bohnenkamp to "Run! Get out of here!" and he refused. Bohnenkamp's wife Cynthia was also screaming at him to run. Both Deng and Bohnenkamp remained in adversarial positions both refusing to heed the officer's directives after he issued them multiple times.

When it appeared to Stotler that Deng was "tensing up" within five feet of Bohnenkamp, he fired one shot that struck Deng in the left arm and entered the abdomen and Deng fell to the ground. A police officer from the Iowa City Police Department was witnessed kicking the knife away from Deng that was videotaped from a squad car.

Three witnesses who were on the scene offered contradictory statements, but because of their resistance to reporting to the police, their "unconcealed hostility toward all official personnel, and the weight of evidence that disproves their accusations," their testimony was largely discredited by the State Attorney General's report.

While the report answers many questions, facts in the report open up some new ones:

While Deng's alcohol level was tested and well above the legal limit, Bohnenkamp's was not. Why?

Why was Bohnenkamp not charged for his part of the altercation for interfering with official acts after refusing to heed Stotler's orders?

Further, the report does not address the events that led up to the two men ending up in a heated argument that turned to violence. Unless County Attorney Janet Lyness opens an inquiry that Bohnenkamp's actions are deserving of legal action, it appears that justice for all will not be served. Regardless of the actions on the evening of July 27, 2009, it must be agreed that this was a senseless tragedy.

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