BEATRICE -- Police are investigating an attempted suicide at the Cenex gas station here early Tuesday morning after a man doused himself in gasoline and lit himself on fire.
Police Chief Bruce Lang said Matthew R. Luedeman, 27, arrived at the Cenex station on North Sixth Street about 5:15 a.m. wearing blue jeans but no shirt or shoes.
“He took the gas nozzle, turned the gas pump on, held the nozzle above his head and poured gasoline on himself,” Lang said. “He then set himself on fire.”
Lang said Luedeman was engulfed in flames for about 10 seconds and tried to pour more gasoline on himself but a clerk inside the station shut off the pump.
Luedeman then went into the store and chased the clerk outside, police said. She fled and called police.
“He then returned back inside the store, where he found a pair of scissors in a rack that’s for sale,” Lang said. “He took those scissors and cut himself vertically down the middle about 18 inches, fairly deep. That still hasn’t gotten done what he wants to get done.
"He went to where they’re selling ice scrapers. He took an ice scraper and attempted to cut his carotid artery in his neck on the right side.”
Lang said Officer Robert Soldo arrived before Luedeman could inflict further injury on himself.
“(Soldo) was able to deploy the Taser and subdue the individual,” he said. “(Luedeman) was noncompliant throughout that at different points. ... He didn’t show the typical pain signs that somebody that’s been tased shows. It hurts. He had the involuntary muscle response, but not a pain response.”
Luedeman was flown to Lincoln for treatment of life-threatening injuries. He was in critical condition Tuesday night at CHI Health St. Elizabeth.
Lang said he doesn't know why Luedeman tried to kill himself. He said the Blackfoot County, Idaho, native, who most recently worked in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, had no history of substance abuse or mental illness.
Lang said he doesn't know why Luedeman was in Beatrice, either. Beatrice police got a call from law enforcement in Idaho about the time Luedeman got to the station Tuesday morning.
“They had pinged his cellphone and located him here in Gage County,” Lang said. “His family had been concerned about him for several days, because he had made some somewhat irrational phone calls to them.”
Police here had contact with Luedeman Monday after multiple calls about suspicious behavior. Lang said Luedeman was acting irrationally, but not to the extent that he needed to be committed and that he refused assistance.
“He was acting kind of strange, but as we all know, there are people acting strange that don’t necessarily rise to the level of us needing to do anything with them,” the chief said.
Lang said the Cenex clerk acted fast in preventing further injury to Luedeman.
“I certainly want to commend the clerk at Cenex,” he said. “Her quick action in shutting the gas pump off certainly prevented a bigger explosion of problems, too. She handled the situation well when confronted by calling us and fleeing the danger zone. She did all the right things.”