Prosecutors: Fatal shooting of man by Davenport officer was ‘reasonable,’ ‘justified’

The fatal shooting of 45-year-old Jason James Morales by a Davenport officer in June has been deemed justified by the Scott County Attorney’s Office.
Published: Jun. 30, 2022 at 4:31 PM CDT
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - The fatal shooting of 45-year-old Jason James Morales by a Davenport officer in June has been deemed justified by the Scott County Attorney’s Office.

“The evidence in this case shows that the use of force by Officer Catton was justified and reasonable under the circumstances,” Copley said. “Jason Morales’ actions of brandishing and shooting a firearm put the life and physical safety of Officer Catton at risk. It was reasonable and necessary for Officer Catton to fire his weapon to prevent injury or death to himself.”

Michael Catton, a three-year veteran of the department, has been on administrative leave while the shooting was under investigation.

During Thursday’s press conference, Senior Assistant Scott County Attorney Caleb J. Copley laid out what happened leading up to the shooting and played body camera footage.

According to Copley:

About 12:48 a.m. on June 8, Catton responded to the Casey’s on West 53rd Street for a report of a man outside the store talking on the phone and making noise as if working with tools. The employee also reported a recent exterior air conditioner theft in the past few weeks, and the man outside could possibly be doing the same thing.

After Catton arrived and parked about 12:54 a.m. the squad-car video shows a dumpster, storage shed and light pole. Morales later identified himself to Catton. Morales tells Catton his motorcycle broke down and he was waiting to be picked up.

Catton explained the problem Casey’s has had with air conditioner thefts, and that is why he was meeting with him. During the interaction, Morales is seen on Catton’s bodycam adjusting the front of his sweatshirt on the right side of his body.

Catton runs Morales’ information. While waiting for a response a Maroon Ford F150 truck pulled into the parking lot. Morales confirmed the truck was the friend he was waiting for. Morales was seen on Catton’s bodycam using his right hand to feel something in the same area as before. He wraped his right hand around an object on his waist and appeared to push down on the area.

Catton was told after about two minutes, that Morales had active warrants for his arrest. Catton asked for another officer to be sent to the scene.

Catton told Morales he had a warrant for his arrest and attempted to arrest him. Catton’s bodycam showed he attempt to arrest Morales, as he turned and ran saying “no no no,” and reached for the waistband area he adjusted earlier, pulling out a handgun and looking over his shoulder.

During a fight when Catton grabed Morales, his bodycam fell off into a pile of leaves where only audio could be heard. Catton grabbed Morales’s right forearm to keep the gun from being pointed at him. Morales fired a gunshot in Catton’s direction. The gunshot is best heard from the squad car video.

Morales was standing over Catton with his gun, heavy breathing and struggling is heard from the bodycam. A mans voice said “f****** stop man” before Morales said “I don’t want to do this, I am not f****** going dude, I am not f****** going.” Catton yelled “man stop.”

Catton kept his left hand on Morales’s handgun and drew his pistol, he fired three shots in Morales’ direction. They had no effect, Morales was still armed and fighting with Catton. Wrestling can be heard on the bodycam.

Catton fired the fourth shot in Morales’ head area to give himself the best chance of ending the threat. After the shot, Morales went limp and fell to the ground.

Catton quickly radioed shots fired and could be heard wheezing and breathing heavily in-between sentences on the radio.

Other officers arrived on scene. Morales was transported to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Morales’ gun was collected at the scene. The gun had a capacity of seven rounds, with six still in the magazine. One spent round was in the chamber, which jammed it and prevented it from being fired until the round was cleared.

Catton’s service pistol was also collected, and a review of the magazine confirmed he fired four rounds from his service pistol.

The driver of the red Ford F150 was identified and interviewed. She told officers she was in the parking lot only a few minutes before hearing a loud disagreement and Morales running from Catton. She said Morales lifted his sweatshirt and pulled out a handgun with his right hand. She saw Catton grab Morales by the sweatshirt and spin around, almost to the ground.

The woman said while spinning the handgun turned toward Catton. She heard him yell “don’t” followed by one gunshot from Morales’ gun. She saw the muzzle flash. She lost sight of the men when they were behind the dumpster. She heard Morales yelling and Catton saying “Stop. Please don’t make me do this. Please stop.” She heard two volleys of gunshots before no longer hearing Morales.

While investigating officers found Morales was a convicted felon, thus prohibited from legally possessing firearms.

An autopsy confirmed that Morales’ cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head. The autopsy also showed the first three rounds fired by Catton did not hit any major organs that would have incapacitated Morales. This corroborates Officer Catton’s version of events when he told investigators that Morales was still fighting with him after he initially fired his gun at him.

Officers also learned during the investigation Morales had previously talked about attempting to kill himself by “suicide by cop” if faced with the situation of having to return to prison, Copley said.

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