Officer cleared in November 2022 shooting

Report indicates Christenson was suicidal while armed
Lee Pulaski
City Editor

An investigation has exonerated Officer Jeff Buettner with the Shawano Police Department in the shooting death of Lucas Christenson.

The Shawano County Sheriff’s Department made the announcement to local media March 10 and released a legal opinion from the Winnebago County District Attorney’s Office detailing what happened the afternoon of Nov. 19, 2022. In the opinion, District Attorney Eric Sparr found that Buettner’s decision to use deadly force was justified due to Christenson carrying a deadly weapon that had already been fired once prior to officers arriving and that threats were made as Buettner and others tried to deescalate the situation.

“Based on these facts, the officer was forced to act at that moment’s notice to neutralize a deadly threat,” Lt. Chris Madle said in a press release. “At this time, this investigation is closed.”

According to Sparr’s report, Buettner and two other officers responded after 5 p.m. Nov. 19 to a residence on South Lafayette Street. Christenson and his wife were the owners of the home but were in the process of a divorce. The report showed that dispatchers told Buettner at least one shot had been fired. Upon arriving, Buettner was informed by a witness that there was a loaded shotgun in the basement, where Christenson and his wife were.

Officers tried to yell to Christenson from upstairs for about two minutes, according to the report, and they heard sounds consistent with a struggle in the basement, which was audible on body camera recordings as banging and yelling. The officers then went downstairs and Buettner continued to call out to Christenson.

Body camera footage recorded the following exchange, according to the report:

Christenson: “You reach over this threshold, you’re done.”

Buettner: “Lucas, come on. Don’t do this.”

Christenson: “Say good night.”

Wife: “Put the gun down, Lucas. Put the gun down, Lucas.”

After that, officers hear the sound of a pump shotgun cycling, according to the report, and they believed their own safety, along with the safety of Christenson’s wife, was in danger. Buettner moved to the doorway, according to the report and saw that Christenson was blocking the way for the wife to escape. Christenson then pointed the shotgun at Buettner, who fired three shots in succession, followed by three more. Camera footage recorded the sound of the shotgun cycling again, at which point Buettner fired five times, totaling 11 in all.

According to the report, officers tended to Christenson and tried to determine where he’d been shot. Dispatch alerted Shawano Ambulance, which arrived shortly thereafter. Christenson was transported to ThedaCare Medical Center-Shawano, where he was pronounced dead.

The report stated other officers expressed concern for Buettner’s mental state right after the shooting. Buettner told another officer “Why did he (expletive deleted) make me do that?” according to the report. Another officer told Buettner that he’d saved a life.

Detective Richard Wright interviewed the wife, according to the report, and learned that Christenson arrived at the house intoxicated earlier in the day, and they had a fight. Christenson then drove away recklessly and began to call, text and leave voicemails, but the wife did not respond. The wife was concerned Christenson might do something to himself after he’d sent her a picture of a shotgun three days earlier.

Christenson returned to the house later in the day, according to the report, and the wife went down to the basement to check on Christenson. The wife told Wright that Christenson had the shotgun, pointed the gun at her and then pointed it upwards and fired. She said that she and Christenson struggled over the shotgun and that he put it in his own mouth at one point. Christenson also threatened to shoot the wife’s son, according to the report.

The investigation included examining reviewing camera footage inside and outside the house, along with text messages Christenson sent to his wife and to friends. He texted his wife the day of the incident and said: “I won’t be a bother to you anymore after tonight,” and he texted a friend saying: “Nice knowing you.”

According to the report, Wright said the wife told him that Christenson was trying to commit suicide and wanted to be killed.

An autopsy done by the Fond du Lac County Medical Examiner’s Office found two gunshot wounds on Christenson’s body, one in the upper left quadrant and the other in the upper left back. Blood alcohol levels taken showed Christenson had a concentration of 0.133 to 0.153.

“Limiting the review to information that would have been known to law enforcement at the time of the shooting, it is clear that Lucas Christenson presented a significant risk to the life and safety of W1 (the wife) at the time of the shooting, as well as to the life and safety of Shawano Police Department officers,” Sparr wrote in the report. “Officers repeatedly made attempts to defuse the situation by other means. Lucas initially ignored officers’ efforts, than (sic) seemed to attempt to escalate the situation, making threats and racking the shotgun.”

Sparr concluded that the threats to officers, along with being armed with a deadly weapon that had been fired once, were justification for Buettner to use deadly force.

“Officers are trained, in a situation like this, to shoot until they know the threat is neutralized, which Off. Buettner did,” Sparr wrote. “I conclude that Off. Jeff Buettner’s shooting of Lucas Christenson was justified.”