Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer responded during a news conference Saturday afternoon to allegations officers used excessive force during two arrests Thursday that was videotaped and posted on YouTube.
"I will get to the bottom of this. There is an internal investigation in full swing and the investigation will be conducted thoroughly, fairly and as swiftly as possible. I will discover what transpired at 33rd and Seward in its entirety and I will address it properly."
You don't see much of what happened before the neighbor recorded the arrests. An officer can be seen taking down 28-year-old Octavius Johnson, who was having his car towed for expired tags just before 5:30 p.m. Thursday.
"You are hitting him. Why are you hitting him?" One of his younger brothers, Juaquez, was recording with his cellphone. "That's abuse, that's abuse."
An officer walked Juaquez away from the scene, but the 23-year-old returned. A few minutes after the arrest more officers arrived and went after the brother. After a number of officers were in the house, the officer on the ground was shown striking the suspect several times.
Sharee Johnson, who was home during the arrests, is Octavius’ mother. “If you see how many police officers were out here you would think we were drug dealers or injured someone. This was over a car."
“We deserve an explanation of why we were treated this way," said Sharon Johnson, Octavius’ aunt, who added an officer tipped her over in the doorway trying to get to Juaquez, who had run into the house. “He took my wheelchair and flipped me. I fell and my whole chair was on top of me."
The family says officers took Juaquez's cellphone, but didn't know about the neighbor's recording. “I know this will be a battle,” said Sharee. “I pray justice prevails. They crossed the line and know it." The family says police towed four cars, one for being parked in the wrong direction.
The family plans to file a complaint. Octavius and Juaquez are out of jail on bond for the misdemeanor charges of obstruction. Another brother, who was inside the home the entire time, remains in jail on an outstanding warrant. Police say two of the Johnson brothers have a long history of misdemeanor offenses, the youngest had two before this latest incident.
Friday, Robert Wagner criticized the officers involved. Wagner was taken down by police outside of Creighton University Medical Center in May 2011. In court he admitted he punched an officer at the start of the altercation. Even so, Wagner says OPD has a credibility problem in northeast Omaha. "To not feel safe, you can't call the police because you're worried about an assault from the police, but you know there will never be any consequences or repercussions."
Saturday, Chief Schmaderer assured the public the investigation will be thorough. “The final resolution will be fair to the citizens of Omaha, the Omaha Police Department and the specific employees involved so that we can move forward and restore any public trust that may have eroded with this incident."