A seven-year veteran of the police department in Des Moines, Iowa, shot and killed 28-year-old Ryan Keith Bolinger, who was reportedly unarmed, on Tuesday.
Police say the June 9 incident began when Bolinger pulled his vehicle up next to a police patrol car making an unrelated traffic stop. Bolinger’s vehicle was allegedly so close the police cruiser that Officer Ian Lawler could not open the car door.
Bolinger exited his car and began “dancing in the street or making unusual movements in the street," Des Moines Police Departmant Sgt. Jason Halifax said at a press conference on Wednesday, The Des Moines Register reported.
Bolinger later got back into his vehicle, prompting another officer, Vanessa Miller, to chase him at a low speed — around 35 mph, according to Halifax. Lawler, who had been boxed in by Bolinger, radioed that he was joining Miller in the pursuit. He suggested on the radio that the suspect may be drunk or mentally ill.
After about two minutes, Bolinger attempted to make a U-turn and police were able to block him, The Huffington Post reported. Bolinger got out of his car and "walked with a purpose" towards Miller’s vehicle, according to Halifax.
Miller fired at Bolinger once through her driver's side window; the bullet his torso, killing him. Bolinger was Caucasian, as is Miller.
Halifax told The Guardian on Thursday that it was not his rapid movement towards the car that prompted the shooting, but would not elaborate due to the ongoing investigation.
No weapons were found on or near Bolinger and he had no criminal record, The Des Moines Register reports.
“She obviously felt something,” Halifax said of Miller.
“And it involved what she was perceiving at the time, but that will be up to the grand jury to hear next," he continued.
For a grand jury to indict the officer, and for Miller to be charged with a crime, jurors must consider whether the officer’s decision to use lethal force was reasonable at that moment in time, without the benefit of hindsight.
What is “reasonable” is not defined by the general public’s opinion, but what other police in a similar situation would think. If an officer believes she is acting in self-defense, her actions will be considered justified, The Washington Post reported.
None of the police involved were wearing body cameras. Miller’s microphone should have picked up audio of the incident. Her vehicle’s dashboard camera did not record the shooting, according to Halifax. Results from the toxicology report as well as the investigation are currently pending.
Iowa has had three police shootings in 2015. Iowa is 92.5 percent white while Des Moines is more than 76 percent white.
The lack of a racial element in the shooting may have helped make this story less controversial to the public. Only one person protested outside of the police press conference in Des Moines. An editor at CopBlock.org later organized a demonstration of more than 100 outside the police station.