An Iowa police department released raw body-camera footage on Wednesday showing the questioning and subsequent arrest of a black Republican campaign worker while he was canvassing the streets of West Des Moines late last month.
Keilon Hill, 24, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, claims that he was racially profiled on Oct. 29 while he was campaigning for U.S. Rep. David Young around the 5700 block of Aspen Drive. However, the video evidence tells a different story.
Hill was passing out fliers as a contract employee with the Washington D.C-based Defending Main Street, a Republican political action committee, when he allegedly leaned against a mailbox and began taking pictures of houses. A resident called the West Des Moines Police Department’s non-emergency line to report the “suspicious person,” and Officer Clint Ray responded.
Hill swore at the arresting officer, refused to show identification and failed to respond to basic questions. He was arrested and charged with Iowa Code 718.4 — harassment of a public official.
News of Hill’s arrest first made headlines last week when a local civil rights group, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, released Hill’s cell phone video of his controversial encounter with police. However, the CCI footage failed to show the crucial moments leading up to Hill’s questioning.
“People need to see for a second the world from a cop’s eyes and that’s what we’re going to do today,” West Des Moines Police Chief Chris Scott said before releasing the 13-minute police video.
Ray repeatedly told the campaign worker that he was responding to a neighbor’s call and was investigating reports of a suspicious person. The officer notified Hill that West Des Moines has a solicitation ordinance.
Hill responded by insisting that he wasn’t selling anything, and asked if he had broken any laws. Although Ray informed him that he wasn’t finished with his investigation, Hill refused to answer any more questions and attempted to walk away.
“Tell me what laws I’ve broken, sir,” Hill is heard asking on the video.
Officer cleared of wrongdoing
An internal review by West Des Moines Police determined that the officer acted appropriately. However, some members of the public are questioning whether Ray met the “reasonable suspicion standard” for stopping Hill and asking him for identification.
Although West Des Moines police generally refuse to release police video footage until after an investigation is completed, the City Council’s Public Safety Committee felt that publishing the bodycam recording would mitigate concerns regarding Ray’s conduct.
“I think all we’re asking for is for people to have an open mind, to look at the entire video from the beginning of the interaction to the end,” Scott said. “As you see that you can make your own judgment but, again, I’m not asking for people to point fingers.”
Local attorney Gina Messamer of the Parrish Kruidenier Law Firm in Des Moines will represent Hill moving forward. A pretrial conference is set for Dec. 6 in Polk County.
Asked if he would change anything about his behavior if given another chance, Hill said he wouldn’t have acted differently. “If they had said, ‘Hey, somebody saw you doing something,’ I would have rectified it then,” he said.