Brandon McLaughlin (06/23/83) mug shot

Brandon McLaughlin. 

After a nearly year-long investigation, District Attorney Gordon McLaughlin has decided not to file murder charges against a man who fatally shot his friend in 2020, the Larimer County District Attorney’s Office said Wednesday.

In his decision letter, the district attorney said murder charges could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt because the court can’t prove the shooter wasn’t acting in self-defense.

This decision is regarding the killing of Edward Kreutzer, 37, by Brandon McLaughlin, then 37, on Sept. 5, 2020, inside Brandon McLaughlin’s home in Berthoud. Despite sharing a last name, Brandon McLaughlin and District Attorney Gordon McLaughlin have no relation, the attorney’s office said.

“Exactly what occurred between Brandon McLaughlin and Edward ‘Brooks’ Kreutzer ... remains unknown,” the decision letter said. “No murder charges against Brandon McLaughlin can be successfully proven at trial … As such, it would be unethical to seek prosecution.”

The night of the killing, Brandon McLaughlin called 911 and said he had shot his friend in self-defense. Responding officers found Kreutzer dead on the floor of Brandon McLaughlin’s bedroom.

Investigators determined that Brandon McLaughlin and Kreutzer were hanging out drinking when they got into an argument, leading to a physical fight in the kitchen. Kreutzer won the fight, at which point Brandon McLaughlin retrieved a gun and, at some point, shot Kreutzer three times, the attorney’s office said.

Deputies with the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office arrested Brandon McLaughlin on the charge of first-degree murder. However, on Sept. 23, 2020, the district attorney’s office dismissed the case and said no charges would be filed.

This decision was made under the previous District Attorney Clifford Riedel and has been undergoing review by District Attorney Gordon McLaughlin since he was elected in November 2020.

The review used statements from the men’s two young daughters, who were in the home the night of the killing. Brandon McLaughlin’s daughter, 8, and Kreutzer’s daughter, 6, witnessed the fight but ran out of the house before the fatal shooting, the attorney’s office said.

The girls said Brandon McLaughlin went to his bedroom to get his gun after the fight and Kreutzer banged on the bedroom door. They said Brandon McLaughlin opened the door and pointed the gun at Kreutzer, who said “Come on do it. Shoot me.” Brandon McLaughlin told the girls to leave while Kreutzer told them to stay.

This contradicts Brandon McLaughlin’s claim that he shot Kreutzer after Kreutzer forced his way into the bedroom. Physical evidence from the scene also suggested the bedroom door was unlocked and showed no damage to the door, door frame or strike plate, the attorney’s office said.

However, police said the gun had both Brandon McLaughlin’s and Kreutzer’s DNA on it, as well as evidence of a jam, which suggests there may have been a struggle over the weapon. 

That, in addition to there being no witnesses to the shooting, Kreutzer’s dominance during the fight and Brandon McLaughlin’s unwavering insistence that he acted in self-defense and told Kreutzer to leave the home, leaves no way to disprove Brandon McLaughlin’s claim, the attorney’s office said.

“There are unanswered questions that would lead to reasonable doubt in the minds of any jury,” the decision letter said. “The District Attorney would not be able to defeat a self-defense claim at trial.”