LOUISVILLE, Neb. — A 23-year-old man who was shot to death Wednesday by a Cass County sheriff’s deputy was described as quiet and kind by colleagues at the cafe where he worked.
Austin M. Baier died after a confrontation outside his car at the beginning of a traffic stop in Louisville, the Nebraska State Patrol said Thursday. The agency did not offer a complete description of the encounter or say whether Baier held a weapon, and Cass County Attorney Nathan Cox did not return telephone messages The World-Herald left for him Thursday.
The deputy, Tyler Reiff, stopped a 1992 Buick Century that Baier was driving near First and Cherry Streets about 7:15 p.m. Wednesday. The car matched the description of a vehicle that had been reported as being driven recklessly in the area, the State Patrol said.
After stopping, Baier drove off a short distance, the patrol said. After stopping a second time, Baier got out of the car and confronted Reiff, 25, the patrol said. An altercation ensued before Reiff shot Baier, it said.
Reiff, who has been employed by the Sheriff’s Office for four years, and medical personnel attempted life-saving measures. Baier, who lived in Louisville, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Reiff was not injured.
Reiff was placed on administrative leave, the State Patrol said. Under state law, a grand jury will review the circumstances of Baier’s death.
An autopsy was to be conducted Thursday, the patrol said.
The shooting occurred near Louisville High School’s football field, just blocks from shops, bars and restaurants on Louisville’s Main Street.
Baier did not have a criminal history in Nebraska or federal courts, according to court records.
A relative declined to be interviewed Thursday.
Thursday afternoon, Baier’s former co-workers at Louisville’s Main Street Cafe were in disbelief. They said Baier was kind and soft-spoken and would do anything for anyone.
Meiah Yale-Barton, a cook at the cafe, went to school with Baier’s sister at Weeping Water High School. She said Baier also went to the school and ran cross country and track.
“He was a good kid,” Yale-Barton said. “He cared about the things he should’ve cared about.”
She added that Baier was a great big brother to his sisters.
Yale-Barton and others said Baier was small in stature, and they found it hard to believe that he would ever be threatening. He struggled with mental illness and getting medication, they said.
Antoine Walker, 45, a cook at Casey’s General Store in Springfield, where Baier most recently worked, said he came in to work early to help out because the overnight staff was so upset over Baier’s death.
Walker said Baier was a cook at Casey’s; he had worked there about five months, making pizza and sandwiches at the convenience store.
Baier would bring in food to work to share with his co-workers, Walker said. He said he never would have thought Baier would be killed in a confrontation with law enforcement.
“I thought he was an awesome kid,” Walker said. “We’re all kind of hurting. It’s sad.
“He was just free-spirited. We’re all just distraught … It’s hard to believe in a small place like this.”
World-Herald staff writer Emerson Clarridge contributed to this report.