County attorney: Hays officer shot autistic man in self defense

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HAYS, Kan. (KAKE) -

Ellis County Attorney Thomas Drees says a Hays officer was justified in the fatal shooting of a 36-year-old autistic man in August--that the officer feared for his life and acted in self defense.

Drees on Thursday detailed the events leading up to the August 18 shooting of 36-year-old Joey Weber:

  • Sgt. Brandon Hauptman attempted to stop a vehicle driven by Weber for improper tag display (expired year decal).
  • Weber refused to stop and attempted to elude the officer.
  • Weber stopped in an alley "but refused to obey the lawful commands of Sgt. Hauptman."
  • As additional officer arrived on scene, Weber drove away and was pursued by three law enforcement vehicles.
  • Weber "eluded officers for several minutes" and stopped his vehicle in the 2300 block of Timber Drive in Hays.
  • Weber got out of the vehicle and refused to follow the commands of Hauptman "who ordered Weber, at gunpoint, to lie on the ground."
  • Weber ran toward a residence; Hauptman chased him and attempted to force him to the ground. 
  • Weber fell onto the sidewalk and Sgt. Hauptman fell on top of him.
  • Weber "tried to wrestle Sgt. Hauptman's handgun away from him."
  • "Hauptman, fearing for his life, pushed the barrel of his gun into the chest of Weber and fired one shot."

"Sgt. Hauptman reasonably believed shooting Weber was necessary to prevent death of great bodily harm to himself," Drees said. "Therefore, no crime occurred, because Sgt. Hauptman was acting in self defense."

Read the full release here

EARLIER STORY: Weber's parents thank supporters


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Hays Police Chief Don Scheibler released the following statement:

On August 18, 2016, a standard traffic stop escalated into a pursuit and ultimately the use of lethal force by a Hays Police Officer. After a brief struggle where the driver grabbed the officer's gun, one shot was fired, striking Hays resident, Joey Weber in the chest. Joey Weber perished at the scene. The Hays Police Department would like to offer our condolences and sympathy to the family of Joey Weber.

Immediately following the events on August 18th, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) and the Ellis County Sheriff's Office were asked to conduct an investigation of the incident. This is standard procedure following an officer involved shooting, and was done to ensure that a fair and impartial investigation could be completed. I want our community to know that we have fully cooperated with this investigation and complied with every request made to me and other members of the Hays Police Department. During the investigation, the Hays Police Department could not comment on the facts of the matter that were being examined by the KBI, as it could have undermined their ability to gather information and draw an unbiased conclusion. We appreciate your patience and understanding over the last several weeks.

Now that the criminal investigation has been concluded, the Hays Police Department will begin a Professional Standards Investigation into the events surrounding the incident. The purpose of a Professional Standards Investigation is to determine if the officer was in compliance with the policies and procedures of the Hays Police Department and to identify any steps we can take to further prepare our officers to serve the community. In our effort to ensure a fair review of the incident, we have asked the Kansas Highway Patrol Professional Standards Unit to complete the impartial fact finding portion of the Professional Standards Investigation. They will have unimpeded access to all records and personnel. Upon completion of the Professional Standards Investigation, the officer may be disciplined in accordance with the City's Personnel Manual or exonerated.

A police officer's most important responsibility is the protection and preservation of life, including their own. When officers objectively and reasonably believe that they or others are in danger of being seriously hurt or killed, police officers are required by law to take the necessary steps to protect the lives of others and themselves. These decisions and reactions are based upon what is happening at that moment, not what they may find out later. That is part of the reason we have policies and procedures and conduct regular training. The Professional Standards Investigation will determine if these policies and procedures were followed.

The officer involved, Sgt. Brandon Hauptman, is a graduate of Hays High School and Fort Hays State University, and has been a member of this community for many years. He started his law enforcement career with the Hays Police Department in 2007. He attended all required training for law enforcement officers in Kansas, including the police academy at the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center. Sgt. Hauptman is a highly decorated and trained police officer. He was promoted to Patrol Corporal in 2014, and then to Patrol Sergeant in 2015. Sgt. Hauptman is a Supervisor and a Police Instructor for the Hays Police Department. Sgt. Hauptman has conducted thousands of citizen contacts and law enforcement contacts during his nine years as a police officer here. Sgt. Hauptman will remain on administrative leave until the professional standards investigation is completed.

It is my continued commitment to our community that a full and impartial internal review of the August 18th use of lethal force will be completed. I also pledge that when we conclude our review of what happened that day, our goal will be to identify any steps we can take to better prepare our police officers to protect themselves and the other members of our community.

- Chief Don Scheibler, Hays Police Department

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