On the morning of Tuesday, January 6, a domestic disturbance call took a deadly turn when a police officer fired at a family dog and missed. According to The Hawk Eye, Autumn Steele was fatally shot by a Burlington Police officer in front of her husband, Gabriel Steele, and their four-year-old son.
Court records reportedly revealed Steele was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of domestic abuse one day prior to her death. Apparently, an altercation took place between her and her husband because she was ordered not to return to the home alone without a police escort.
The officer was dispatched to supervise Steele so she could gather some of her belongings. Unfortunately, the situation took a horrific turn when the couple’s German Shepherd reportedly approached the officer. Apparently, the officer felt threatened by the dog because he pulled his gun and began shooting at the animal. An eyewitness revealed the officer fell into the snow while he was shooting and one of the bullets hit Steele in the chest.
She was transported to the Great River Medical Center where she later died.
According to Shot 97, neither Steele or her husband posed a threat. Although the officer reportedly felt threatened by the dog, it has not been confirmed whether the dog was even a threat or not. Two eyewitnesses also recounted the horrific incident insisting that it was an accident. The officer was reportedly aiming for the dog, but unfortunately, Steele was hit. However, the speculation has not yet been confirmed.
“The dog startled the officer. The officer began shooting at the dog. The officer was still shooting when he fell down in the snow,” an eyewitness told The Hawk Eye. “It appeared he was shooting at the dog when [the officer] fell to the ground,” another eyewitness reportedly said. “It’s my belief the woman was shot accidentally.”
The 34-year-old mother’s death has sparked yet another debate about the use of excessive force and the use of firearms by police officers. Although witnesses insist the fatal shooting was not intentional, the incident is making headlines due to the heightened number of shootings involving police officers and unarmed people. Numerous news outlets have deemed the incident an “example of police incompetence” which only adds to the growing tension between local communities and law enforcement.
The investigation is reportedly being led by the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation. However, the department has refused to release any further details about Steele’s death. The Burlington Police Department has also declined to comment about the fatal shooting.
[Image via The Hawk Eye]