Lawyer: Eaton sheriff’s sergeant wasn’t well — (Battle Creek Enquirer)

Original article no longer available

Battle Creek Enquirer

Kevin Grasha, Lansing State Journal   Contact Kevin Grasha at 517-267-1347 or kgrasha@lsj.com.

Originally published April 5, 2006

CHARLOTTE — Sgt. Jeff Lutz fired the .40-caliber bullet that struck the leg of a pregnant waitress in a shootout more than a year ago, his lawyer said Tuesday.

That October 2004 incident at a Red Robin — where an armed man ran into the restaurant and took the waitress hostage before being taken down by police — sent Lutz into a tailspin from which he hasn’t yet recovered, said Lutz’s attorney, G. Michael Hocking.

Authorities say Lutz, a sergeant in the Eaton County Sheriff Department, shot himself in the arm March 20 and then gave police a description of a black man he said did it. Lutz was arraigned Tuesday on two felonies, including filing a false report.

“The critical issue that occurred — which I think has spiraled into what we have now — is when Jeff found out he was the one who shot the hostage,” Hocking said.

The description of a black man that Lutz said shot him March 20 in Delta Township sparked a massive manhunt that closed schools and locked down a neighborhood. Many in the mid-Michigan community have expressed outrage that Lutz blamed a black man for a shooting authorities say was self-inflicted.

Lutz, who appeared in 56th District Court in a shirt and tie with a suit jacket draped over his shackled wrists, posted a $5,000 bond. He is undergoing intensive mental health counseling. He must continue that as a condition of his bond, Judge Harvey Hoffman ruled Tuesday.

About eight weeks before the March 20 incident, Lutz, who is going through a divorce, began taking antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication, Hocking said.

That medication caused him to suffer from insomnia, his attorney said, and Lutz hadn’t slept in about four days before the night he reported being shot in the arm by a black man with a pock-marked face.

“He was depressed over his marriage, depressed over the fact that he feels a horrendous amount of guilt, because it was his bullet that hit a young waitress who was pregnant and could have caused her to lose her baby,” Hocking said. “Put all that together, it was a dangerous cocktail.”

In court, it was revealed Lutz’s wife has obtained a protective order against him. Hocking, who also is representing Lutz in the divorce case, said proceedings began in the fall and that the couple no longer live together.

Undersheriff Fred McPhail on Tuesday said he received no reports from Lutz’s supervisors that his performance suffered after the Red Robin shootout.

Lutz was off work for more than a month following that incident and went through counseling, McPhail said. Lutz returned Dec. 6, 2004, he said.

“He did not return until he was cleared to do so by that mental health professional,” McPhail said, adding that other officers involved in the Red Robin shootout also went through counseling, which the department provides as standard practice.

Lutz likely will not continue his career in law enforcement, Hocking said, adding that people should not prejudge him.

“When Jeff Lutz was in that shootout, he didn’t turn and run,” Hocking said about the Red Robin incident. “Now that he’s having troubles, I would hope citizens wouldn’t turn away and run from him.”