Grand jury: Waterloo police officer won’t be charged in fatal shooting

2013-04-18T16:00:00Z 2013-04-19T15:12:23Z Grand jury: Waterloo police officer won’t be charged in fatal shootingBy JEFF REINITZ, jeff.reinitz@wcfcourier.com Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier

WATERLOO, Iowa --- A local grand jury has declined to charge a Waterloo police officer in the shooting death of a man in November.

Officer Kyle Law shot and killed 22-year-old Derrick Ambrose Jr. following a fight outside the New World Lounge on Nov. 18. Authorities said Ambrose had displayed a gun during the fight, ignored Law’s orders to drop the weapon and ran off.

The incident met with public protests, and local civil rights groups called for a federal review.

This morning, Black Hawk County Attorney Thomas Ferguson released the results of a secret grand jury investigation into the shooting.

“Following the grand jury’s independent review and deliberation of the evidence, they returned a no bill — refusing to file an indictment,” Ferguson said. He said the grand jury met for five days over a two-week period.

Ferguson said Law wasn’t aware that Ambrose had disposed of his pistol after running down a dark street. Ambrose turned to look back toward Law, who, because of his training, felt Ambrose was drawing the gun and thought his life was in danger, Ferguson said. Law fired two shots, killing Ambrose.

Ferguson’s office released a summary of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation probe, which lasted from the day of the shooting until March and interviewed about 70 lay witnesses in addition to experts.

According to the synopsis provided by the Black Hawk County Attorney’s Office:

Ambrose and his acquaintances had been involved in an argument with others inside New World that night. Ambrose, his friends and the other party were removed from the nightclub. Outside, another altercation started, and Ambrose went to his car, which was parked on Riehl Street, to retrieve his 9mm Taurus.

Across the street, Officer Law was in the area watching the nightclub when he saw a number of people leaving the establishment and a fight start to break out. The fight moved from the parking lot to the middle of Broadway Street, and Law pulled his squad car closer and radioed what was happening.

Meanwhile, one witness called 911 and told dispatchers “You guys have a guy out here with a gun, I believe, and there’s a pretty big fight going on.”

Law left his vehicle and saw Ambrose waving or pointing a handgun at people in front of him, according to the synopsis provided by the County Attorney’s Office. Ambrose’s back was to Law, who approached, drew his duty pistol and ordered Ambrose to drop his gun.

Ambrose saw Law and ran, still holding the pistol. He headed down the 500 block of Riehl Street and went to the south sidewalk, which was “extremely poorly lit,” the synopsis states. The path took him past a 6-foot high privacy fence, where the Taurus was later found, indicating, according to the synopsis, he likely threw the gun while fleeing.

Ambrose continued on and tripped or lost his footing and went to the ground, his head away from Law. The officer ordered Ambrose to stay down, but Ambrose began to rise, and turned his head toward Law. Law believed his life was in danger and fired two rapid shots. Ambrose was struck in the right leg and the rear right of the head — it couldn’t be determined which shot came first — and died at the scene.

Law’s spent shell casings were about 40 feet away from Ambrose’s body.

Law was placed on administrative leave following the shooting and had since returned to duty. Waterloo director of safety services Dan Trelka declined a Courier request to release a photo of Law, citing concerns for his safety. The Courier was unable to obtain community reaction to the report for Thursday’s print edition due to the timing of the release of the information.

Here is a summary of other findings of the Division of Criminal Investigation probe:

Shots fired: Initial reports said officers were sent to New World Lounge for a report of a fight with shots fired. The investigation showed that dispatchers received a report of a fight and a man with a gun. But Officer Kyle Law was in the area and noticed the fight independent of the 911 call and approached after radioing dispatch. The evidence points to only shots being fired by Law’s weapon at the end of the incident. Ambrose’s gun had 17 rounds in the magazine and none in the chamber. Law’s weapon had 13 rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber, consistent with having fired two shots. Some witnesses reported hearing more than two shots, but there was no evidence of any other gunshots.

License to Carry: The investigation showed that Ambrose had purchased his gun, a 9mm Taurus, in November and had obtained a permit to carry Nov. 13, five days before the shooting. The County Attorney’s Office synopsis said Ambrose’s license to carry would have been invalid at the time of the shooting because he was intoxicated. His blood-alcohol level was .065, which is under the legal limit, but he also had THC — marijuana’s active ingredient — in both his blood and urine. The presence of drugs in his system would have nullified the permit under Iowa law.

Recordings: Law didn’t activate his squad car’s top lights, a move that would have started his dashboard camera, and he didn’t turn on his body microphone.

Stop: Witnesses reported hearing Law direct Ambrose to drop his gun, stop or get down before the shooting.

Ditched gun: Ambrose’s pistol was found inside a privacy fence in the yard of a Riehl Street home, making it likely he tossed the weapon during the foot pursuit. It was found about 10 feet into the yard and about 29 feet from the location where Ambrose was shot. Ferguson said neither Law nor any other witnesses saw Ambrose dispose of the gun, so the officer thought Ambrose was still armed.

Injuries: Ambrose had two gunshot wounds. One to the right side of his right leg near the knee, and the bullet lodged in his leg. The other was to the right rear of this head with an exit wound through the left forehead. It couldn’t be determined which injury came first. Ambrose also had scrapes on an arm, possibly from falling during the foot chase.

Copyright 2015 Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(34) Comments

  1. Signed up to post one comment
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    Signed up to post one comment - April 30, 2013 7:52 pm
    Live by the sword, die by the sword
  2. dtbetty
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    dtbetty - April 23, 2013 9:29 pm
    The police have horrific jobs in these times, we need to support them.
  3. leopard_colony
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    leopard_colony - April 23, 2013 12:13 am
    One thing that stands out is lack of lighting. This is why I recommend an AR15 or AK for home defense. It is easy to mount a flashlight on those rifles and use them to identify target. Why the officer didn't have a flashlight in one hand and gun in the other is unknown. Likely he did not have a chance to retrieve it while giving chase. Modern handguns often have a rail built in to mount laser and/or flashlight. But doing so requires a special holster. Personally I'd rather see police use an AR15 with flashlight. You can use it with one hand if necessary. And it gives better range and accuracy.
  4. PRSNGRD
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    PRSNGRD - April 20, 2013 11:53 pm
    @ reojoe did you cry when Timothy McVeigh was put to death Joe? His family was grieving, did you rejoice Joe? Did you rejoice when Seal Team Six took out Bin-Laden Joe? His family was grieving... Did you cry for him and his family??? I in no way want to speak ill of Mr. Ambrose or his family. I'm sure Mr. Ambrose’s family is sad and angry over the circumstances surrounding Derrick’s death. Unfortunately they have to look at Derricks actions in this as well. I know why Derrick ran... He was afraid. He had been drinking, he had been smoking marijuana, and he was displaying a firearm when he shouldn't have. So add all that up, he knew he would be arrested, he would lose his newly purchased firearm, he would lose his permit to carry, and he would be incarcerated. But, had he stopped, put the gun down, explained what happened, hired an attorney, maybe it wouldn't have been as bad as he imagined. Unfortunately Derrick didn't do that, Derrick ran and while he was running he knew he was being pursued. When Derrick got to the tree's more bad decisions, He threw the gun to the right, and took off running left. I'm sure in his mind he thought it would work. But you throw a black gun in the dark nobody is going to see that. Especially when the police officer knowing he has a suspect with a gun he is going to go into fight or flight response, a common physical response to stress. Your heart rate goes up, you vision narrows, (could be as small as an 18" cone,) not to mention you've been running making your breathing already difficult. (http://specnology.com/FIGHT%20OR%20FLIGHT%20REFLEX.htm) So a black man, dark clothes, in a poorly lit area, that HAD a gun during the chase, (dumped the gun unknown to the officer.) jumped out from behind a tree to run to the left, the officer fires what's called a double tap. Part of LE training... first shot hits Derrick in the leg. Hand guns always pop upward when fired, second shot hit's Derrick in the right ear, NOT THE BACK OF HIS HEAD. It's sad, it's truly sad. All of this could have been avoided if Derrick would have stopped at the bar and not ran. Not to mention if you are so anti law enforcement, and so scared of the police, why not stay where all your friends are at the bar. Even as cynical as you may be toward the police, why run off and face them one on one? Why not stay with your group where you could have ten to twenty witnesses? Romans 13: 1-8 (The Message Bible.) 13 1-3 Be a good citizen. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it’s God’s order. So live responsibly as a citizen. If you’re irresponsible to the state, then you’re irresponsible with God, and God will hold you responsible. Duly constituted authorities are only a threat if you’re trying to get by with something. Decent citizens should have nothing to fear. 3-5 Do you want to be on good terms with the government? Be a responsible citizen and you‘ll get on just fine, the government working to your advantage. But if you’re breaking the rules right and left, watch out. The police aren’t there just to be admired in their uniforms. God also has an interest in keeping order, and he uses them to do it. That’s why you must live responsibly—not just to avoid punishment but also because it’s the right way to live. 6-7 That’s also why you pay taxes—so that an orderly way of life can be maintained. Fulfill your obligations as a citizen. Pay your taxes, pay your bills, and respect your leaders. 8-10 Don’t run up debts, except for the huge debt of love you owe each other. When you love others, you complete what the law has been after all along. The law code—don’t sleep with another person’s spouse, don’t take someone’s life, don’t take what isn’t yours, don’t always be wanting what you don’t have, and any other “don’t” you can think of—finally adds up to this: Love other people as well as you do yourself. You can’t go wrong when you love others. When you add up everything in the law code, the sum total is love.
  5. exiowanthankgod
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    exiowanthankgod - April 20, 2013 2:06 am
    rejoicing in a man's death never, but do i really stop to worry bout a known gang member drunk waiving a gun at a bar full of drunk people that gets killed NOPE!!!! and why you wanna bring jesus in this have you ever thaught jesus may have put officer law in his place to stop this out control mr. ambrose before he killed someone maybe one of your family members joe but as ive seen before the black community dont really care unless they are the victim and then they want police to do something.
  6. DaddyTJ
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    DaddyTJ - April 19, 2013 9:39 pm
    Care to reenact this night, in the dark, chasing someone who was armed seconds before and see if you can tell whether they are armed when they fall and look back in a manner that makes you think they're still armed.
  7. buckman
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    buckman - April 19, 2013 3:29 pm
    I'm asking if all an officer has to do is say he thought someone was armed and then he is justified in shooting them? I seem to remember the admonition to watch someone's HANDS. If there is nothing in their hands then they are not an immediate threat to you if at a distance.I'm wondering what the officer was looking at when he was looking at the victim. Looking at the face of someone you think has a gun is stupid as they cannot kill you with a glare.
  8. jd2004retiree
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    jd2004retiree - April 19, 2013 3:12 pm
    Michael Muhammed spoke to a group at the Masonic Lodge last night and one statement should be read over and over and over until it sinks in.
    His statement was, “As long as we have inappropriate behavior, we give them justification,” he said. “If we don’t get our act together, this is just the beginning.”
    There was inappropriate behavior that night. Over 70 people spoke to the grand jury. Seems as there was a cross section of what was seen heard and what transpired.
    Read his statement people. Over and over and over.
  9. buckman
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    buckman - April 19, 2013 2:52 pm
    I wonder if he bothered to look at the victims hands as, if they are not holding a weapon ,you cannot be hurt.I know you have strong feelings about this for good reason but you have no first hand knowledge of being in a gun fight.
  10. reojoe
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    reojoe - April 19, 2013 1:09 pm
    You all are making Jesus SO proud with your rejoicing in a man's death.
  11. reojoe
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    reojoe - April 19, 2013 1:08 pm
    Gee, I don't know why you wouldn't feel sorrow for a dead man and his grieving family?

    You should be ashamed of yourself.
  12. Jeffery West
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    Jeffery West - April 19, 2013 10:15 am
    well said and true!!
  13. DaddyTJ
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    DaddyTJ - April 19, 2013 8:40 am
    I suppose the average citizen can say they read the article and would be justified in their ignorant comments. Interesting, I've heard this before from ignorant citizens...

    He HAD a gun and it was unknown by Officer Law when he fired his weapon that this young man did not have his gun anymore. He fired because he feared he was about to be shot. Try reading the article.
  14. exiowanthankgod
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    exiowanthankgod - April 18, 2013 9:50 pm
    why would i feel sorry for something they should of taught derrick growing up they had years and years to teach him to go the right path in life and either they didnt do a good job at it or he didnt take the advise im sure more then one person had told derrick your either going to be dead or in jail wonder how many of his friend and family told him he dont need a gun they prolly all thaught it was cool. maybe we need to be in our young ones lifes and teach them the right way to live im sure his family members and freinds are hurt but they should understand derrick was the first person to go get a gun and he was the problem that night and that problem was waiving a gun drunk and high alot of states derrick would of been shot as soon as he had a gun in his hand and not listen to the officer try that in LA, Houston, NYC, Miami, Chicago or any other big city with a gang problem and derrick wouldnt of got the chance to run and the people who are making this a racial thing a black officer would of done the same thing and thats follow the law that they enforce as officer law now has been proven to have done. so sue the city and get your blood money after the lawyer takes his cut you might have enough money left to start a program to get young people to put down there guns and pick up a book!!!!! I hope to see the good you do for the youth if you do get any money from the city. and to the city of waterloo i hope you spend millions on lawyer fees if needed to see no one benifits one penny from one persons (derrick ambrose) bad choices in life
  15. helloall
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    helloall - April 18, 2013 8:13 pm
    Wow. Didnt think he did and tossed it in a dark alley. head out of rear and re-read please before putting foot in mouth
  16. helloall
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    helloall - April 18, 2013 8:12 pm
    I would suggest getting off the "scan" and go to school. First of all got a headache from the decyphering . Second, you are correct we dont know and really dont care bad choice bad outcome. Blame others......never take responsibility...... Same with eric rule he was white made bad choice bad outcome.
  17. captainamerica
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    captainamerica - April 18, 2013 6:35 pm
    Police don't have to use the "right" amount of force. Nobody can always be right all the time. Police are authorized to use force that is "objectively reasonable" given the "totality of the circumstances." The grand jury decided that Officer Law did just that.
  18. buckman
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    buckman - April 18, 2013 6:06 pm
    I suppose an officer can say he thought you had a gun and would be justified in shooting you if you made a sudden move and did not obey his orders.Interesting, I've heard this before as an excuse for killing civilians in Vietnam who later proved to be unarmed.
  19. buckman
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    buckman - April 18, 2013 5:45 pm
    Looks like cops can get away with being quick on the trigger in Waterloo"Tombstone" Iowa.
  20. DaddyTJ
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    DaddyTJ - April 18, 2013 5:39 pm
    Actually, you don't see Joe agreeing with anyone and part of my comment was carryover for some of the stuff said on the Facebook page and was directed at his family and friends who claim this is an "injustice" among other things.
  21. Smile49
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    Smile49 - April 18, 2013 5:33 pm
    Either way what's done is done and only god can judge someone in the end. The best part is Law can go back to doing his job which is what he was doing in the first place. Wave a gun see a gun! An officer only shoots to live not shoot to kill. This is built into the training. Think of how officer law feels and how this has affected him and his family in the last few
    Months. Sorry I'm not sorry. Hope god had mercy on his soul!
  22. helloall
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    helloall - April 18, 2013 4:35 pm
    who's"you're all" tj just curious because everypost other then joes agress with the outcome on this site
  23. bbrooks89
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    bbrooks89 - April 18, 2013 4:06 pm
    First off let me go by saying if u really look at what you are say how dare u say u don't feel sorry for our lost you was not there on the scan and u have no ideal what really happen all u know is what the tell u and just becuz you u r a cop don't not mean everything u do is right and I don't care what anyone say this was not right and they made the wrong decision
  24. Williamson
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    Williamson - April 18, 2013 3:16 pm
    Wow, there sure are A LOT of people who know every single detail here and witnessed the actual shooting. All I know is this: For some reason a guy pointed a gun at people then bolted with his gun when the officer told him to stop. No way I believe the officer chose to execute the guy in cold blood. Where the bullet hit doesn't tell the story either as I assume there was a lot of running, fear and confusion prior to the shot. I do feel badly for the family, but I also believe if he hadn't waved a gun in public, run from the officer, or if he had simply gone out that evening without packing (like most people) he would be alive and well today.

    Remember a grand jury consists of "average" people from the community who are sworn to make their decisions based on the evidence.
  25. DaddyTJ
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    DaddyTJ - April 18, 2013 2:02 pm
    The government is not above the law Joe...in this case, the government and a group of our peers protected the officer and ensured officers throughout the state could still do their job.

    You're all ticked at the cops when it was a jury of our peers who decided, based on evidence, not to pursue charges. I don't see how that makes the government above the law. Officer Law had a job to do and he did it. Unfortunately a young man lost his life, but he didn't lose his life because of Officer Law. He lost his life because of the choices he made that night.
  26. victor672
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    victor672 - April 18, 2013 1:32 pm
    The government was enforcing the law while protecting law-abiding citizens.
  27. victor672
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    victor672 - April 18, 2013 1:31 pm
    Their loss was caused solely by the "victim's" actions.
  28. captainamerica
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    captainamerica - April 18, 2013 1:22 pm
    I was not on scene, so I will never second guess the officer's actions that night. He absolutely was objectively reasonable given the totality of the circumstances. Don't run from the police. Comply the orders of the police. Either would have avoided this outcome. Thank you Officer Law and all Waterloo Police officers for putting your lives on the line each and every day. You are appreciated and supported!
  29. Think
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    Think - April 18, 2013 1:10 pm
    Great call. Point a gun at a police officer and you can expect to be shot. This took way too long.
  30. reojoe
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    reojoe - April 18, 2013 12:50 pm
    Love to see government above the law, eh, folks?
  31. reojoe
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    reojoe - April 18, 2013 12:49 pm
    Translation: I'm not really sorry for their loss.
  32. Dave88
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    Dave88 - April 18, 2013 12:13 pm
    Unfortunate that somebody died. People should be protesting about the actions and violence of the youth and young adults, not about the Police doing what they have to during a chaotic situation. If you display a gun during a bad situation the. We should not be surprised when someone is shot. Support the Police!
  33. helloall
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    helloall - April 18, 2013 11:59 am
    stay tuned..............next up family files lawsuit against WPD and officer Law. shouldn't have to worry about doing your job but these days doing your job will end up getting you sued... watch. sorry for the loss to the family glad for the good news for the Law family. prayers to all involved
  34. Smile49
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    Smile49 - April 18, 2013 11:11 am
    Awesome! This is not a congrats but a win for officers everywhere daily doing there job in the face of danger and doing it well!
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