A Weld County grand jury said Officer Seth Luedtke did not commit a crime when he shot a man who was laying on his stomach with a knife.
GREELEY, Colo. — When Greeley Police Officer Seth Luedtke arrived at the shed the afternoon of Nov. 8, the man police were trying to arrest had been underneath it for more than two hours.
Within an hour of his arrival, Luedtke killed the man as he lay on the ground clutching a knife. The shooting was ruled justified by a grand jury earlier this month.
The deadly encounter began when the father of Benjamin Weise, 33, called 911 because he wanted his son arrested and removed from the shed that he lived in behind the father’s house, the grand jury report said. Online court records show Weise had an open warrant for failing to register as a sex offender.
When officers arrived, they discovered Weise had crawled underneath the shed and refused commands to come out, the report said. It also said Weise’s father told police his son might do something to make officers shoot him. They were aware Weise had mental health issues, the report said.
Weise never replied to their commands.
When Luedtke arrived hours into the standoff, he “attempted to gain compliance” by shooting pepper balls under the shed. A few minutes later, Weise began to crawl out from underneath the building.
Officers told the grand jury they could see a knife in Weise’s left hand. Body camera video released by the department shows Luedtke begin shouting “drop it” repeatedly as he fires two 40 mm sponge bullet rounds.
The video also shows a police K9 in the small section of the shed.
The K9 officer testified that he didn’t deploy the dog because “if Weise injured his dog, the dog may have become feral and attack[ed] officers.”
“I have not heard of that justification for not releasing a K9 under these circumstances,” said Ed Obayashi, a police training expert who reviewed the body camera video for 9NEWS. “Generally speaking it is standard operating procedure for a K9 to be released under exactly these circumstances.”
Seconds after Luedtke fired the second sponge bullet, he pulled out his gun. Weise is still laying on the ground as he crawls out of the shed, video shows.
Luedtke shot him seven times in the head and upper body. The grand jury report said he died from those wounds. Luedtke told jurors he feared for his safety and the safety of his fellow officers.
> Editor’s note: This body camera video was provided by the Greeley Police Department. 9NEWS has chosen to stop the video just before the shots are fired.
Obayashi said it is hard to tell exactly what happened from the blurry camera angle in the body-worn camera video, but he gives the officer the benefit of the doubt.
“Suspects, even though they’re in the prone position, can just spring up in a split second and start charging the officers,” he said. “So just because they’re in a prone position doesn’t necessarily mean that they cannot attack an officer.”
Weise did not appear to drop the knife, which officers pulled from his left hand before handcuffing him after the shooting, the video shows. The video also shows the officers administering first aid and performing CPR on Weise in the minutes after Luedtke shot him.
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