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Police Officer Cleared of Assault in Arrest Death

June 20, 1995

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) _ A jury has acquitted a police officer of assault in the death of a man who died after scuffling with officers who mistook him for a wanted man.

Luke Wilke was charged with misdemeanor third-degree assault after the Sept. 30 arrest of Francisco Renteria, who went into a coma and died a day later.

After the verdict Monday, Renteria’s mother, Maria Vega, said through an interpreter that her son was killed by ``assassins.″

Police Chief Tom Casady embraced Wilke and said he would be immediately returned to active duty from his desk job. ``There is nothing I can do to thank Luke Wilke enough for the patience and fortitude and strength it took to sit through this extremely difficult process,″ he said.

Renteria, 28, spoke little English, and members of the Hispanic community had questioned police handling of the case. A special prosecutor has said Renteria didn’t know what was happening and tried to walk away from officers who stopped him for questioning.

Officer Stephen Schellpeper’s trial on misdemeanor assault charges begins June 26.

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