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Omaha Police report details on Thursday’s fatal officer-involved shooting; protests take place downtown

Published: Nov. 20, 2020 at 12:19 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 20, 2020 at 11:01 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The Omaha Police Department has issued a statement explaining the series of events that led to an officer-involved shooting in which one man died.

The victim has been identified as Kenneth Jones, 35.

A number of protestors gathered downtown Friday night in response.

As night fell Friday, a crowd gathered outside of Omaha Police Department headquarters in the Old Market.

People stood shoulder-to-shoulder, chanting for justice for Kenneth Jones and accusing officers of being wifebeaters and Nazis.

While peaceful in practice, the demonstration in response to the fatal shooting of Kenneth Jones was by no means calm.

Demonstrators made a pela for the body camera footage from the shooting to be made public.

“For some reason I feel like they edit body cam footage. Body cam don’t show the real deal,” one protestor said.

Police reported the following:

On Nov. 19 at 7:27 p.m., officers conducted a traffic stop near 27th and Harrison Streets.

While exiting their patrol cruiser, body cameras worn by officers recorded them saying “stop reaching” as the backseat passenger, later identified as Jones, was seen moving around in the car.

Officers told those in the car to put their hands up. Of the four in the car, all showed their hands except Jones.

“The officers repeated three times for everyone to put their hands up. The officer on the driver’s side tried to open Jones’ door several times while yelling at him to ‘open the door!’”

The officer used a flashlight to break out the car window, opened the door and yelled for Jones to get out of the car.

As the officer reached to grab Jones, he turned and pulled away and was eventually taken out of the car.

“The cruiser camera shows the officers struggling to get Jones from the vehicle. Once Jones is out of the car, an officer is heard saying, ‘keep your hands where I can see them.’”

“Watch his right hand! He’s digging! He’s digging! He’s got a gun! He’s got a gun!” an officer yelled. Seconds later, four shots were fired and Jones fell to the ground.

Officers began performing CPR on Jones. A loaded .45 handgun was found with a round in the chamber on the ground beneath Jones.

Jones was taken to the Nebraska Medical Center and was pronounced deceased.

Interviews with the other passengers in the car revealed none of them knew Jones had a gun.

Of the two officers, both were wearing body cameras but one of the cameras was dislodged during the struggle and did not record the entire event on video. The camera worn by the officer who shot Jones did capture the entire incident on video and audio.

An autopsy for Jones was scheduled to be conducted Friday. Both officers involved will be interviewed and a grand jury will be convened once the investigation is finished.

“We would like to express our condolences to the family and friends of Kenneth Jones and the rest of the community that are affected by this incident. We are committed to conducting a thorough investigation and providing the public with complete details,” Police Chief Todd Schmaderer stated.

The report also stated Jones was released from the Department of Corrections in 2018 for being a felon in possession of a deadly weapon.

Offering her condolences to the family of the victim, Stothert said during a news conference Friday morning for an unrelated matter that a grand jury will investigate Thursday night’s fatal shooting in southeast Omaha.

The two officers involved in the incident been put on administrative leave, she said.

“There will be a thorough investigation, and according to state law, there will be a grand jury,” Stothert said.

Putting officers involved in a shooting on administrative leave during the investigation is Omaha Police policy. The mayor said the two officers involved in Thursday’s shooting joined OPD in 2016.

“So they’ve been on the force about four years,” she said.

With the investigation already underway, the mayor said a statement from Schmaderer is expected to be released Friday.

“He will be as transparent as he possibly can,” Stothert said.

Investigators will be reviewing body camera video, she said, but noted that it’s not up to OPD to release video in cases where a grand jury will be investigating.

“As you know, our police chief worked with (State) Sen. Ernie Chambers several years ago to make sure that the results of a grand jury investigation were made public, and the evidence is usually made public at that time, too, which could include the body camera videos,” Stothert said.

Assuring transparency, the mayor said the number of officer-involved shootings “are very, very low, and we want it to stay that way.”

“It’s always a tragedy when somebody loses their life, and we don’t like to hear it, and especially in this atmosphere, we have right now in the country when there’s shootings and officers are involved. But we will get to the bottom of it, and we promise our community that we will and take any action if it’s warranted,” Stothert said.

The mayor said she’s “always worried about the possibility of unrest. Always.” She said she hopes this incident doesn’t “spark anything.”

“We want a safe, calm community, and things have been quieting down within the past six weeks or so... But I know there’s still a lot of anger out there, too,” she said.

Stothert said she has confidence in Chief Schmaderer.

“He will get to the bottom of it,” she said.

A family that lives in the neighborhood told 6 News they were right across the street when the shooting happened.

“Like, I’m in shock. My kids are outside — they seen that happen,” neighbor Charlene Rainey said. “The simple fact that this man, like — police screamed out a weapon. I didn’t see him have a weapon — the police officer already had a gun in his hand when they let go of this man. Both of them had him.”

Rainey said she and some of her family members watched as a man was shot by OPD officers Thursday night.

“I heard a kid in that car,” area resident Savannah Adams said. “A kid got out screaming, and then there were females in the car.”

Rainey said she was stunned by the scene she witnessed across the street from her home.

“I see two police officers grabbing a man, pulling him away from the car as they were twirling him around,” she said. “They let go, and we hear ‘He’s got a weapon!’ And then a police officer had a gun in his hand, and then he opened up — five to six shots fired. Next thing you know, the man is laying, and they’re trying to bring him back to life — like, they’re pumping on his chest.”

Stothert said she has confidence in Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer and that the investigation will be transparent.

“I think our police department, people know in Omaha, it’s a very good police department,” she said. “I have a lot of respect for Chief Schmaderer and his command staff; they run a very tight ship. And everybody who knows Chief Schmaderer knows he’s a no-nonsense chief. He will get to the bottom of it; he will investigate, like he always does, and he will be transparent as he possibly can.”

Appearing before the Omaha City Council to discuss the police union contract earlier this month, Chief Schmaderer referenced changes that were made within the department following the death of Zachary Bear Heels in June 2017.

“We increased our training. We went to full body deployment. We increased the veteran transfers into our department to help with establishing a culture, and we implemented the police mental health co-respondent program,” he said. “Since then, our track record has been very good in the City of Omaha. The last two years, there have been two officer-involved shootings — just two. One last year, and one this year. For a city our size, that’s almost unheard of.”

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