Jones County releases body camera video of fatal use of force near Martelle

Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 4:51 PM CDT
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MARTELLE, Iowa (KCRG) - Jones County officials have released a short portion of body camera footage from the fatal shooting of a man near Martelle by law enforcement officers at the end of August.

The video shows Jeremy Berg, 45, of Elkport, standing in a grassy area at the rural property along 42nd Street, south of Martelle, with officers yelling and the sound of a taser firing. Berg then turns and runs from the officers, with the video becoming blurry as officers chased him.

11 seconds into the 15-second video, Berg is seen turning toward the officers, yelling while running toward them with his right arm raised. Multiple gunshots are fired by officers and Berg falls to the ground.

Berg was shot and killed in the incident. Douglas Hammerand, an assistant attorney general for the state of Iowa, said that the actions of Jones County Sheriff’s Office deputies James Rickels and Tim Miller, along with Anamosa Police Department Sgt. Nick Brokaw, officer Gabe Humphrey, and officer Tyler Hunt did not violate the state’s use of force laws.

“The decision to fire at Berg was reasonable under the circumstances. Prior to discharging their weapons, the officers were faced with a deadly threat solely created by Jeremy Berg. Berg was provided every opportunity to end the confrontation peacefully,” Hammerand wrote, in the report.

The report said that the law enforcement officials arrived at the rural property near Martelle, where a structure fire had been reported, at around 8:17 p.m. and spoke with Berg, who was seated on the ground. Rickels told Berg, who had visible burns on his body, to wait for an ambulance to arrive so he could be checked out by paramedics, but Berg refused and started to get up. Rickels attempted to restrain Berg, but was unable to do so, according to body camera footage reviewed by Hammerand, who then pulled out a knife.

Rickels and family members who were at the location asked Berg to drop the knife, but he refused. Rickels then used a taser on Berg, which caused him to fall to the ground. However, Berg then removed the electrical probes from his skin, according to the report, and stood up with the knife in his hand. After further pleas from his family and other officers, Berg still did not drop the knife.

Miller arrived at the scene, and Rickels attempted to use his taser against Berg again which had no effect. Following this, a several-minute standoff took place, according to Hammerand, with Berg putting his hands up but refusing to drop the knife.

The three Anamosa officers arrived at around 8:30 p.m. that night, and began attempting to persuade Berg to drop the knife. After he continued to not drop the knife, according to the report, a shotgun with bean bags was fired toward Berg along with a taser, which apparently caused no effect once again. This point in the confrontation is where the body camera footage begins.

After officers were able to remove the knife from his hand, they began providing emergency medical aid, according to the report.

Hammerand said that the law enforcement officials felt fear for their safety when “confronted with a person who was behaving in a threatening manner” that was armed, particularly when he turned toward the officers with the knife. The attempts to get Berg to drop the knife, and use of less-lethal force options first, also played into Hammerand’s determination.

Greg Graver, the Jones County Sheriff, said that Rickels and Miller will be returning to work after being placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation.

The findings in Hammerand’s report were based on the investigation conducted by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, which officials said was ongoing. More body camera videos may be released at a later date, pending the completion of the DCI and fire marshal’s investigation.

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