County attorney clears police for fatal shooting during May 31 night of violence

Walton offers most complete account of police activity that night.

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Scott County Attorney Mike Walton today justified Davenport police officer’s shooting of a suspect who opened fire on police during the May 31 night of protests and violence.

Walton also offered the most thorough account of police actions since the evening where two Davenport residents were shot to death.

Here is Walton’s complete account, released at 3:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 3:

Reference: Events of May 31 and June 1, 2020

On May 31, 2020 the whole country was experiencing protests, rioting, violence and property destruction as a result of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Some of these were in the form of peaceful protests, others were not. The City of Davenport was no exception. On Sunday, May 31, 2020 large groups of people began congregating in various locations. Large groups moved about the city in vehicles, often gathering at retail establishments including North Park Mall and Walmart. Some retail establishments were apparently targeted, including pawn shops and jewelry stores, which were broken into and ransacked by large groups of people. By the morning of June 1, 2020, the city had experienced extensive property damage, burglary, theft, numerous shootings and ultimately the injury by gunfire of Sgt. Scott Lansing and the shooting deaths of Italia Kelly and Marquis Tousant.

In this environment, the Davenport Police Department and other agencies requested all available personnel report to the station and from there fanned out across the city to address the violence and destruction. Off duty officers, including those who had recently ended their shifts responded using all available resources to cover the city.

Italia Marie Kelly Homicide

On May 31, 2020 at 11:12 PM Davenport Police responded to 3100 block of West Kimberly in Davenport regarding numerous vehicles and people arriving in the parking lot. A gunshot was fired from a vehicle towards another vehicle. The vehicle where the shot came from has been identified by video and witness statements. Italia Marie Kelly, a passenger in another vehicle, was hit and died as a result of a single gunshot to her torso. Officers on the scene performed life saving measures until Medic EMS arrived. No officers fired any shots at this location. Charges of Murder in the First Degree and Intimidation with a Dangerous Weapon have been filed against Parker Belz as a result of this incident. He has entered a plea of not guilty and the case is pending.

Necker’s Jewelers

On June 1, 2020 at 12:13 AM the Davenport Police Department responded to a report of shots fired at 4007 East 53rd Street, Davenport. Upon arrival officers discovered bullet casings of various calibers. A review of surveillance video shows multiple subjects approaching Necker’s Jewelers, one of them carrying a brick. Some of the individuals were later identified from surveillance video. Several other cars drove into the parking lot and the subjects walked away from the business. An exchange of gunfire occurred between these groups. Several subjects can be identified firing shots in the parking lot. After the shots are fired they run to the vehicles and flee the scene. One of the individuals at this scene is identified by surveillance video and eye witnesses as Marquis Tousant, the individual later found deceased in the area of Myrtle and 14th Streets.

1400 Myrtle Street

At 2:55 AM Lt. Greg Behning, Sgt. Scott Lansing and Detective Pat Sievert were patrolling the downtown area. In addition to maintaining order, they were looking for vehicles that may have been involved in the Walmart and Necker’s events. They were in an unmarked Ford F150 vehicle. Due to the circumstances, officers were using all available vehicles. The vehicle is not a squad car and was not equipped with squad car cameras. Lansing was driving, Behning was in the front passenger seat and Sievert was in the back seat.

Officers observed a suspect vehicle and individuals in the alley between 14th and 15th Streets east of Myrtle Street. The F150 entered the alley west of Myrtle and began traveling east down the alley. When the F150 was nearing Myrtle Street, the vehicle began receiving gunfire from the north or drivers side. The truck was struck several times shattering windows, penetrating the doors and striking Sgt. Lansing in the leg. Another bullet hit Lansing’s firearm, holstered to his left hip. (Lansing is left handed). Bullets struck the head rest behind Lansing’s head. Because the gunfire happened so fast and unexpectedly there was not time to activate a body camera. Therefore there is no squad or body camera video of the incident.

Lt. Behning returned fire from the passenger seat, shooting through the back window towards the gunshot flashes he saw to the left. The F150 began taking gunfire from additional sources from the front. Lansing was seriously injured and having difficulty driving. The vehicle was damaged by gunfire and was not accelerating properly. Lansing was able to drive the vehicle far enough to reach safety. They then obtained aid and were brought to the hospital.

Neither Lansing nor Sievert fired their weapons.

Other police vehicles came to the scene in time to see several suspects leave the area in a black Pontiac Grand Prix. Officers tried unsuccessfully to stop the Grand Prix. They pursued the suspect vehicle which attempted to elude them driving at speeds in excess of 80 – 90 mph within the city of Davenport. During the pursuit, one handgun was thrown from the vehicle. The vehicle crashed in the 1900 block of Mound Street.

One occupant, Lashawn Hensley fled from the vehicle on foot and was apprehended a short distance away. The other occupants of the vehicle were identified as: Don White Jr., Deaguise Hall, Raheem Houston, Devell Lewis and Michael Cross. Various charges are pending against these individuals.

Seven firearms, plus ammunition and magazines were recovered from inside the Grand Prix.

After resolving the pursuit and other issues occurring throughout the city, officers returned to the 1400 Myrtle area for evidence collection. While doing a walk-through in the area of the shooting the body of Marquis Tousant was located in the driveway of 1103 W. 15th Street. A Taurus 9mm Luger semiautomatic pistol was located under Tousant’s body. Nine RP 9mm casings were recovered from the area where he was located.

Investigation

Due to the involvement of Davenport police officers, the investigation was turned over to the Scott County Sheriff’s Department and the Iowa Department of Public Safety, Division of Criminal Investigations (DCI). Forensic examination of evidence was performed by the University of Iowa Diagnostic Laboratories, The Iowa DCI Laboratory, and the FBI.

Officers Behning, Sievert and Lansing were interviewed as well as other witnesses. Interviews were requested of the individuals who were present at 1400 Myrtle Street and subsequently apprehended in the Grand Prix. Only one of them agreed to give a statement about what occurred. He said he was in the alley when he heard and saw shooting to the west. None of the other individuals were willing to give a statement to investigators about the shooting.

Firearms Examination

The guns, shell casings and recovered projectiles (bullets) were sent to the Iowa Department of Safety, Criminal Investigations Laboratory for analysis.

The pistols that were either found in the black Grand Prix, thrown from the Grand Prix or found under Tousant’s body were analyzed. The report showed that four of these pistols were fired during this incident, firing a total of thirty-two rounds.

The Taurus 9mm Luger semiautomatic pistol found under Marquis Tousant’s body was compared with the nine RP 9mm casings recovered nearby and bullet fragments recovered from the F150. The shell casings were fired from the Taurus Luger. A bullet fragment removed from Sgt. Lansing’s holster was fired from this gun. Two bullet fragments removed from the driver’s side B pillar of the Ford F150 were fired from this gun. A bullet fragment removed from the driver’s side door panel of the Ford F150 was fired from this gun. A bullet fragment removed from the driver’s side front wheel of the Ford F150 was fired from this gun.

A reasonable conclusion from the firearm analysis and other evidence is Tousant is the individual who began firing at the Ford F150 striking the vehicle at least five times, one of those bullets going through the door and striking Sgt. Lansing’s firearm holstered on his left hip, and another penetrating his left leg.

The bullet fragment recovered from Tousant’s body at autopsy possessed similar characteristics to bullets fired from Behning’s pistol and had similar class characteristics to the Speer ammunition used by Behning. The bullets possessed insufficient individual characteristics for an identification or elimination.

A reasonable conclusion from this firearm analysis combined with witness statements is the gunfire by Behning struck Tousant one time resulting in his death.

Autopsy Report for Marquis Tousant

On June 3, 2020 an autopsy was performed on Marquis Tousant at the University of Iowa Diagnostic Laboratories by a forensic pathologist. Autopsy revealed a single gunshot wound of the abdomen that injured the liver, pancreas, and heart. These injuries resulted in a large amount of internal hemorrhage. Entrance wound was in the umbilicus. The trajectory is front to back and minimally left to right. A partially jacketed bullet was recovered from the body. Clothing removed from the body included a sweatshirt with a 0.5 cm circular frayed defect through the left front panel centered 3 cm left of the zipper and 15 cm above the lower edge. There was no visible evidence of contact, close or intermediate range of fire on the sweatshirt, but examination was limited by the dark color of the garment.

Factual Conclusion

The evidence is clear that Marquis Tousant opened fire on the Ford F150 occupied by the three officers. His gunfire struck the truck several times, including penetrating the driver’s side door striking Sgt. Lansing in the leg and hitting his firearm holstered on his side. Once the shooting started, other individuals from outside the truck also shot at and into the truck. Shots also struck the driver’s headrest and shattered windows. The truck was nearly disabled by gunshots. Experiencing life threatening danger, Lt. Behning returned fire and the officers were able to drive the disabled vehicle to safety and then were transported to the hospital. Unknown to the officers at the time, Behning’s return fire struck Marquis Tousant one time causing fatal injuries. Tousant’s body was not found until officers were able to return to the scene for investigation.

Legal Conclusion

Iowa Code Section 704.1 defines reasonable force. “Reasonable force” is that force and no more which a reasonable person, in like circumstances, would judge to be 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, or it is reasonable to believe that such force is necessary to resist a like force or threat. Reasonable force, including deadly force, may be used even if an alternative course of action is available if the alternative entails a risk to life or safety, or the life or safety of a third party, or requires one to abandon or retreat from one's dwelling or place of business or employment.

The evidence shows the use of deadly force by Lt. Behning was justified and reasonable under the circumstances. The actions by Marquis Tousant put the lives and physical safety of the officers in immediate danger. It was reasonable for Behning to return fire to limit further injury or death to others and himself.

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