Hutchinson man charged in attacks on Menards employee, police officer

Alex Chhith, Star Tribune
·3 min read

A Hutchinson man was charged with felony assault Friday after he allegedly attacked a Menards employee who told him to wear a face mask with a piece of lumber and dragged a police officer with his car, then hit him with a hammer.

Luke Alvin Oeltjenbruns, 61, was charged in McLeod County District Court with first-degree assault, two counts of second-degree assault and fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle.

The case prompted a whirlwind of discussion on social media as people pointed out that Oeltjenbruns, who is white, was relatively unscathed during the incident, while Daunte Wright, 20, who was Black, was fatally shot by a police officer in a much less initially dire situation Sunday in Brooklyn Center.

Activists said the cases set side-by-side highlight how Black and white suspects are treated differently by law enforcement and how violent white suspects generally are able to survive encounters with police.

Wednesday afternoon's altercation landed Hutchinson police officer Steven Sickmann in the hospital, where a head wound was closed with eight metal staples and he was treated for an abrasion extending from his shoulder to lower arm, according to the criminal complaint.

The series of incidents began around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday when a cashier at the Menards off SE. Montreal Street in Hutchinson told Oeltjenbruns that he couldn't check him out unless he put on a mask. Oeltjenbruns then tried to leave the store with the merchandise, the complaint says.

When the employee grabbed his cart, Oeltjenbruns hit him with a piece of lumber and struck him several times. Police were called and soon found Oeltjenbruns in his pickup in another store's parking lot. When an officer tried to pull over Oeltjenbruns, he ignored the sirens, the charges say. A "slow speed chase" was paused when Oeltjenbruns stopped for a red light.

An officer approached the window and told Oeltjenbruns he was at gunpoint and Oeltjenbruns replied "he did not care and to shoot him," the charges say.

He drove away onto Hwy. 15, which officers blocked at SE. Freemont Avenue. Officers were able to surround the pickup with their squad cars and ordered him to leave the vehicle, which he refused to do, the charges say.

Officer Sickmann then tried to "de-escalate" the situation, the charges say, telling Oeltjenbruns that he was a suspect in the Menards incident. When Oeltjenbruns refused to comply, Sickmann told him that officers would have to break the pickup's window to get him out.

The officer then got up on the vehicle's running board and reached through the driver's side window.

Oeltjenbruns "grabbed Officer Sickmann's right arm and closed the window on it, trapping Officer Sickmann's arm," according to the complaint.

Oeltjenbruns then drove into a squad car and continued to bash his truck into squad cars until Sickmann was able to break free.

At that point, Oeltjenbruns turned onto the highway, again heading north. When his vehicle was blocked off at South Grade Road, Officer Sickmann took a rescue hammer and tried to break open Oeltjenbruns' vehicle window. Oeltjenbruns took the hammer from the officer and hit him on the head with it.

Officers eventually were able to subdue and arrest Oeltjenbruns. He is being held in the McLeod County jail. His bail has been set at $100,000 cash or $500,000 bond.

Alex Chhith • 612-673-4759