Deputy cleared in shooting
Vernon County Prosecuting Attorney Brandi McInroy released the results of the Missouri State Highway Patrol investigation into the officer-involved shooting and death of Brandon Lukenbill. The report says “The investigation showed that [the deputy] had reasonable fear for his life at the moment he shot Brandon Lukenbill.”
According to the report, on June 21, about 2:23 a.m., the Vernon County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call regarding a stolen dark blue Nissan minivan which had been located by its owner. It was reported that the driver tried to run people over during the attempted recovery, and the suspect was identified as Brandon Lukenbill.
Deputy Alex Stimson, who was the only deputy on duty at the time, was given the information by dispatch and headed towards the last known location of the vehicle. As he was approaching the area he saw a vehicle traveling in the opposite direction matching the description of the stolen van.
As Stimson was turning around to make a traffic stop, the van also turned around and accelerated eastbound. At 2:31 a.m. Stimson reported to dispatch the vehicle was “running” and that he was in pursuit. The chase lasted several minutes in the area of 2400 Road, during which time Deputy Stimson lost sight of the vehicle multiple times and was following the dust cloud. At one point Stimson found the minivan traveling towards him forcing him to the side of the road.
The pursuit continued southbound onto 2500 Road and at 2:46 Stimson reported to dispatch they were “Coming to the curve by Stockade.” The report states the curve is sharp and downhill and the minivan was going too fast to negotiate the turn and slid across the road, struck the opposite ditch and struck a cedar tree about 14 feet off the roadway. The impact deployed the driver’s airbag, but according to the report, the driver was relatively unharmed.
Stimson stopped his vehicle approximately 17 feet behind the minivan, exited his patrol car and drew his taser at about the same time the unknown male driver — who was later identified as Lukenbill — exited the van and moved towards the deputy. Lukenbill then turned and ran west on Stockade, and Stimson began a foot pursuit which traveled about 200 feet to where a physical altercation took place.
Stimson ordered Lukenbill to stop multiple times, including threatening to “tase him” to which Lukenbill responded, “Go ahead and do it.” At one point Lukenbill faced the deputy and assumed a fighting stance.
Deputy Stimson said during the interview the taser was ineffective in that only one wire made contact so he moved in to place the device in direct contact with Lukenbill’s leg. The second attempt was also ineffective, at which point Lukenbill grabbed the taser and began trying to take control of it.
Stimson reported that Lukenbill began throwing punches, several of which struck the deputy. The two ended up on the ground, fighting for control of the taser. Stimson said he had opportunity to try the taser a third time, but that it would not function. After that, he dropped the taser and continued trying to physically subdue Lukenbill, all the while continuing to give commands to stop resisting. Stimson reported that Lukenbill grabbed his fingers and bent them backward and that he thought his fingers were going to break.
Deputy Stimson was wearing a manually activated body cam, which was turned on and off multiple times during the confrontation likely because of the “close contact struggle” with Lukenbill.
According to the report, the end of the confrontation was recorded by the camera, the video is dark but audio was captured. During the struggle, Stimson said he felt Lukenbill tugging on his gun in its holster. He can be heard in the recording yelling several times very quickly “Stop grabbing for my gun.” The report states “It was apparent Deputy Stimson was alarmed.”
Stimson reported at this point he attempted to push off from Lukenbill then drew his firearm. The report states “Fearing for his life, Deputy Stimson fired one round into the chest of Lukenbill.”
After the shooting, the sound of handcuffs being used can be heard. Stimson was also able to turn on his flashlight and retrieve the pieces of his radio and put it back together at which point he reported to dispatch that shots had been fired and there was one person down. The time was 2:56 a.m.
Deputy Stimson retrieved a bandage from his vehicle and applied it to Lukenbill.
Deputy Josh Barker had already been notified and was en route to Stimson’s last known location after Stimson failed to maintain radio contact following the vehicle pursuit. Barker arrived on scene at 3:05 and took over first aid until an ambulance arrived. Shortly after Barker’s arrival, Stimson became physically ill.
The suspect’s identity was confused for a moment because he possessed ID and debit cards belonging to others but was later verified by fingerprint.
Following the shooting, Vernon County Sheriff Jason Mosher requested that the MSHP take over the investigation and sheriff’s deputies secured the scene until investigators could arrive. The investigation was conducted by MSHP Sgt. J.B. Trammell and Sgt. Scott Rawson.
According to the report, the autopsy showed that Lukenbill died from a single gunshot wound to the chest with a trajectory consistent with Deputy Stimson’s account that Lukenbill was lunging for his gun at the time of the shooting.
The report continues stating that Deputy Stimson gave numerous, unheeded commands to Lukenbill, and also made several less-than-lethal attempts to control him but that Lukenbill continued to resist and fight.
“After an altercation with Lukenbill which lasted nearly ten minutes, it was clear Deputy Stimson was near the point of exhaustion when Lukenbill attempted to take and control the gun ...” says the report. “The investigation showed that Deputy Stimson had reasonable fear for his life at the moment he shot Brandon Lukenbill.”
Lukenbill is also suspected of being under the influence of drugs and or alcohol, but toxicology reports are still pending.
Sheriff Mosher said Friday that Deputy Stimson has returned to full duty and there were no disciplinary actions taken.
“It is a sad situation anytime a life is lost, regardless of the circumstances. The Missouri State Highway Patrol conducted a very thorough and professional investigation and we are grateful for their assistance during the incident,” said Mosher.