Two Iowa men arrested in brutal, 'racially motivated' assault of Black man

Andrea May Sahouri, Des Moines Register
·5 min read

DES MOINES – Two Iowa men have been arrested in connection to the assault of a 22-year-old Black man that the victim, Darquan Jones, his family and the NAACP of Des Moines say was racially motivated.

Dale Lee Millard was arrested Thursday morning and charged with willful injury causing serious injury. Millard, 28, "made admissions" to the May assault, which began near his property on the 100 block of E Titus Avenue and ended in a nearby creek bed, according to police reports.

During a Friday morning news conference, Des Moines police said an arrest warrant had been issued for a second suspect in the case. Jesse James Downs, 27, turned himself in a few hours later, at 1 p.m., and was charged with willful injury causing serious injury.

The willful injury charges are punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Dale Lee Millard
Dale Lee Millard

Jones, 22, suffered multiple facial fractures, a broken wrist and other injuries that required 10 stitches during the assault. He said he was choked, punched multiple times and dragged to the creek where his head was held underwater.

Jones told the Register he was on his way to his girlfriend's house around 3:25 a.m. May 16 when at least two white men attacked him, thinking he was trying to break into a nearby home.

Jones gave the men his name, he said, but they attacked. He tried to run away from them but they caught up to him in a nearby field, he recalled, where he was choked and punched multiple times.

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"I couldn't breathe, I just kept blacking out," he said. "I could see my whole life just going in and out, in and out."

The men dragged him to a nearby body of water — Jones described it as a creek — and held his head under the water in an attempt to drown him, he said.

Darquan Jones said he heard the cock of a gun before two women, who had heard his screams from an apartment nearby, went outside to see what was going on.

He said once the women got there, the suspects yelled racial slurs at them and ran off.

One of the women, Tyia Campbell, 40, told the Register the suspects were yelling that they "need to get out of our area, we're going to get all of you out of here."

Police arrived at the scene and discovered Jones, lying on the ground with significant injuries.

Jones has expressed lingering trauma from the assault, claiming he'll never be the same man after what happened to him. But now that arrests are being made, his father, Daryl Jones Jr., said his son is smiling again.

"It's a blessing," he said. "Quan is really getting back to Quan."

Punishment for hate crimes in Iowa a 'slap on the wrist,' Jones' father says

Jones' father, Daryl Jones Jr., and the NAACP of Des Moines said in a news conference a day after the assault that they'd expect hate crime charges to be filed if detectives determine the motive of the assault was fueled by racism.

"After speaking with Quan, his family, and the witnesses that have come forward, if the story is as they state it is, then what occurred yesterday should be nothing less than a hate crime," Kameron Middlebrooks, president of the NAACP in Des Moines, said in the May 17 news conference.

During Friday's news conference, Jones Jr., Middlebrooks, and House Representative Ako Abdul-Samad pointed to flaws in Iowa's hate crime statute.

“Justice is all I ever wanted,” Jones Jr. said. He described the punishment in Iowa for hate crime charges as "a slap on the wrist."

“Our hate crime laws in Iowa don’t have any teeth in it,” said Abdul-Samad, who is drafting legislation that would increase penalties for hate crime assaults from a misdemeanor to a Class C or D felony, depending on the severity of the case.

Police initially said they would not call the assault racially motivated until the suspects were found and their motives determined. Parizek said at Friday's news conference they still cannot call the assault racially motivated, pointing to the way Iowa laws are written.

“The way that hate crime laws are written, you have to establish motive,” Parizek said, adding that most crimes do not require motive to file charges.

“It’s pretty obvious to all of us the suspects show a lot of ignorance out there, but that doesn’t meet the standard to file the charge,” Parizek said. “Ignorant statements don’t translate into charges under Iowa law.”

Darquan Jones (right) speaks during a press conference with his father, Daryl Jones Jr., at a family residence on May 19, 2020. Jones, 22, was assaulted by three white men in the early morning of May 16 in an attack he and his family have said was racially motivated, resulting in five facial fractures and a broken wrist. Jones said there was an attempt to drown him in a nearby creek, and at least one attacker repeatedly used racial slurs.
Darquan Jones (right) speaks during a press conference with his father, Daryl Jones Jr., at a family residence on May 19, 2020. Jones, 22, was assaulted by three white men in the early morning of May 16 in an attack he and his family have said was racially motivated, resulting in five facial fractures and a broken wrist. Jones said there was an attempt to drown him in a nearby creek, and at least one attacker repeatedly used racial slurs.

Downs' history of assault

In August 2019, Downs was charged with disorderly conduct including fighting or violent behavior and consumption of alcohol in a public space at the Iowa State Fairgrounds after he was was observed by officers as "the primary aggressor in a physical altercation that resulted in gates being knocked over, as well as a trash can and a female ... being thrown to the ground," according to police reports.

That same female victim recently filed a petition of relief of domestic abuse against Downs on June 8, claiming he has threatened, punched, strangled and dragged her by her hair in the past.

Jesse James Downs
Jesse James Downs

In June 2017, Downs was one of two people charged with assault causing bodily injury and disorderly conduct after a fight with a McDonald's employee over long wait times.

Follow Andrea Sahouri on Twitter: @andreamsahouri.

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Des Moines men arrested in racially motivated assault of Darquan Jones