Back in December of 2015, Deputy Mike “Hutch” Hutchinson of the Deuel County Sheriff’s Department stepped from his patrol car to serve a warrant on Neil Stretesky, who was wanted for Attempted Murder charges.
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That night in Big Springs Nebraska had begun typically. Hutchinson’s backup was close, but not with him. He walked to the back of his car to get his vest when he found himself in an ambush.
Stretesky, who was armed with a shotgun, told Hutchinson to drop his pistol. Hutchinson refused, and Stretesky tried to shoot him–but the gun malfunctioned. Hutchinson then jumped at Stretesky, and tried to wrestle the shotgun from him.
Stretesky then shot him four times with a 9mm pistol.
Hutchinson went down, and remembers little of the rest of the night. Stretesky was shot by another Sheriff’s deputy. He died after being shot twice with an AR-15.
Hutchinson lived. The other deputies that arrived on scene, and then skilled medical personnel were able to stabilize him. This would seem like a happy ending to the story, but there’s a twist. Deuel County, the county where Hutchinson worked, began waffling about the medical costs, and if they would or wouldn’t keep making the insurance payments.
The county terminated the benefits he needs for his continued recovery. He was shot on the job, working for the county–seems only logical that they’d continue to support his recovery.
“It really hurts,” Hutchinson told reporters from LEO Affairs. “I made a commitment, swore an oath and did my duty. When I signed up, they said ‘Mike, we’re gonna give you x amount of pay, health insurance, retirement and life insurance. I made a commitment to them, they have backed out of their commitment to me. ”
Deuel County, which is poorly-funded, canceled his health insurance, leaving him and his wife with COBRA–a stop-gap measure that runs about $1,500 a month.
The county commissioners, people who had the power to make this situation right, sat idly by doing nothing.
“My son pointed out to the commissioners that there are policies concerning stuff like this,” Hutchinson said. “They didn’t even know what the policy was.”
Instead of bringing the matter up for a vote, the commissioners did nothing–an inaction that allowed the cancellation to proceed.
County Attorney Joel Jay was asked when the matter might be decided. He told Hutchinson that there were no plans to put the matter to a vote, or decide on it in any other way.
“You know the expression from the military, ‘I’ve got your six?” Hutchinson asked. “I expected them to be there. My six never felt more open when I was ambushed.” He should know. Before his 25 years with the Sheriff’s Department, Hutchinson was in the Army for 8.
Hutchinson claims that Sheriff R. Scott DeCoste, the one who shot Stretesky, failed to support him in the Commissioner’s meeting. “He’s riding the fence about the whole thing,” Hutchinson said. “Didn’t say a damn word in the meeting. When it was over, he just walked away.
“I left my blood on that hill for Deuel County,” he said. “I just want my commissioners to do the right thing.”
We certainly echo that sentiment, and would love to see some resolution for what has become an embarrasing betrayal of the public trust on the part of Deuel County.