Grand Jury Finds Officers Not Responsible in Zutavern Shooting; Richard Young Negligent

CUSTER COUNTY–A grand jury has concluded their investigation into the officer involved shooting on February 24, 2020 of 28-year-old Print Zutavern.

According to court documents from Custer County District Court, the grand jury found on August 6 there was no criminal conduct on the part of any individual that caused or contributed to the unfortunate death of Zutavern.

The names of the officers involved in the situation were redacted, however the unanimous verdict from the grand jury was to not recommend discipline for any individuals or organizations involved with the shooting on February 24.

The grand jury did however state that they were “extremely disappointed in their (Richard Young Behavioral Health Facility) failure of  to offer aid given his [Zutavern’s] history and their records of his situation.”

Through testimony in the case the jury holds Richard Young responsible of negligence in dealing with Zutavern. The jury is also asking Custer County to re-evaluate their association with Richard Young  based on testimony and stated, “The jury was shocked to hear what happened and would like to prevent it from happening in the future.”

The Nebraska State Patrol put out a press release on February 24, 2020.

Nebraska State Patrol Press Release February 24: Troopers with the Nebraska State Patrol were called to assist the Custer County Sheriff’s Office with a standoff situation at 6:16 a.m. Monday, February 24 at a residence in northeast Custer County on Dunning Road, north of Arnold. The situation had begun with a report of a suicidal party.

NSP negotiators reported to the scene and began communicating with the subject, identified as Print Zutavern, 28. Earlier in the day, Zutavern threatened his father with a firearm, shot and killed multiple animals, and threatened law enforcement officers.

Throughout the day, communications continued and additional NSP resources responded. A warrant was issued for Zutavern’s arrest on charges of possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, use of a weapon to commit a felony, two counts of terroristic threats, and two counts of intentional cruelty to an animal.

At approximately 6:11 p.m., Zutavern attempted to leave the property driving a UTV, but was blocked by multiple troopers who gave loud commands for Zutavern to put his hands up. Zutavern then exited his UTV, ignored repeated commands, and moved aggressively toward a trooper. As Zutavern approached the trooper, he refused to remove his hand from his pocket. The trooper then discharged his duty weapon, striking Zutavern.

Troopers and emergency medical technicians began life-saving efforts immediately. Zutavern was transported to Great Plains Hospital in North Platte where he succumbed to his injuries.

A shotgun was recovered from the UTV Zutavern had been driving. No law enforcement personnel were injured during the incident.

In accordance with Nebraska State Patrol policy, the trooper has been placed on administrative leave pending an internal review. The Custer County Attorney has directed an investigation, which is ongoing. Nebraska law requires a grand jury to convene for any in-custody death.