Court rules Waterloo Officer's search unlawful: Closer look at t - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Court rules Waterloo Officer's search unlawful: Closer look at the ruling

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

The City of Waterloo has had to pay $170,000 in settlements in two cases recently.

Waterloo Police Officer Mark Nissen has been involved in both of those.

Now the Iowa Court of Appeals say Nissen was unjustified in a 2014 search he and another officer conducted on a parked car.

The search led to the discovery of a gun in the car and a weapons violation charge for Ezekial Phillips Jr.

This eight-page Iowa Court of Appeals document breaks down the events of the early morning traffic stop and the reason for overturning the District Court's initial ruling.

Officer Nissen and Sergeant McGeough were on patrol in the early morning hours of June 2014.

The officers saw a parked car with loud music coming from it, the defendant Ezekial Phillips Jr. was standing next to the car when the officers pulled up and another man was in the passenger seat.

Nissen approached the passenger asking for identification.

Then, according to court documents Nissen says the passenger, "appeared to be trying to conceal something or retrieve something."

Here is where the search comes into question. Officers argue the Waterloo Noise Ordinance violation and an open container in the car gave them probable cause to do the search.

In the documents, the courts say, "Officer Nissen did not see the bottle until after he ordered the man out of the vehicle."

It goes on to say, "We [the court] are not persuaded Officer Nissen had probable cause of an ongoing offense that would allow for a warrantless seizure of the man or search of the vehicle."
      
The ruling comes only a couple weeks after a crash in which Nissen's squad car was hit head-on by an alleged drunk driver.

Nissen was awarded a Medal of Valor by the Waterloo Police Department for the incident.

Earlier this year, two excessive force lawsuits were settled by the city; both involving Nissen.

For a 2013 incident in which Nissen tased a man at a late night party, the city paid $70,000.

The city paid another $100,000 for a 2014 case where Nissen slammed a teen to the ground and left him there with injuries.

KWWL's Jessica Hartman spoke with Chief Trelka in person. He said he stands by Nissen.

Trelka declined to do an interview and the comments he gave KWWL are similar to the those he has posted in an open dialogue he has been having on the KWWL Facebook page with the public.

The comments read in part: "officers are making split second decisions that others get days and weeks to review and then render a decision."

Chief Trelka goes on to answer questions.

"There are many good questions. When the officers first passed the car the stereo was playing loudly. They could hear it from down the street. Most cars need a key in the ignition to play the stereo. Can we then assume that when the people in the car saw the police they turned the car off and pulled the keys?"

The city is facing another lawsuit in which Officer Nissen shot a man outside a nightclub.

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