Westroads Mall shooting: No bond for 16-year-old suspect; $75K bond set for older brother

Douglas County Attorney says shooting was gang-related. Investigators are looking for someone who returned fire.
WOWT 6 News Live at 10
Published: Apr. 19, 2021 at 1:34 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - As two brothers faced serious charges Monday, 6 News learned that a good portion of the gunfire between two gangs at Westroads Mall over the weekend was caught on security camera.

The 16-year-old suspected gunman in Saturday’s shooting death at Westroads Mall was denied bond Monday, but the judge set $75,000 bond for his older brother, facing an accessory charge.

Makhi Woolridge-Jones faced a judge for the first time Monday afternoon from a private room at the Douglas County Youth Center. He was charged with the murder of 21-year-old Traquez Swift; and in the shooting of a 22-year-old woman.

Few details were revealed at Woolridge-Jones’ court appearance. The state did say that after the suspect allegedly shot and killed Swift, he shot at a woman as she was trying to flee, striking her in the foot.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said Monday that the incident “appears to be gang-related.”

“These individuals got into a verbal dispute, and it goes down the hallway, and ends up with Makhi pulling out a firearm and shooting Mr. Swift several times,” he said.

Kleine said several shots were fired between rival gang members. Investigators are relieved there weren’t more victims.

The defense said Makhi Woolridge-Jones lives with his mother, works full time at a restaurant, and is trying to earn his GED at Metro Community College. A public defender said the boy is bipolar.

Because of his age, Makhi Woolridge-Jones is being detained at the Douglas County Youth Center; but he will be tried as an adult. A preliminary hearing will be held May 26 to determine whether the case will go to trial.

Police also arrested Makhi’s 18-year-old brother, Brandon, on Sunday in connection with the shooting. Brandon Woolridge-Jones was charged Monday with accessory to a felony, punishable by up to 20 years, and ordered not to have conversations with his younger brother.

Investigators said he drove the getaway car away from the mall, his younger brother with him.

The public defender said Brandon recently graduated from high school, lives with his mom, and has been working at a car wash for six months.

The shooting brought back terrible memories for so many — not only to last month’s shooting of an officer trying to apprehend a shoplifter, but also the mass shooting in 2007 at Von Maur that left eight people dead.

On Saturday afternoon, gunfire erupted outside JCPenney on the first floor of Westroads Mall, sending many shoppers and employees into hiding.

Not only are there portions of the shooting on video, but 6 News learned there’s some audio, too.

One clip shows a grandparent sitting on a bench with a grandchild enjoying time together when there’s gunfire and everyone runs to safety.

“This type of extreme violence that took place this weekend can’t and won’t be tolerated,” Kleine said. “We’re going to hold those responsible to the full extent of the law. We’re fortunate more people were not hurt — there were a lot of people in the mall. This wasn’t in some private area; this was right out in the open.”

Investigators are still looking for the individual who returned fire. They found shell casings from a different handgun on the floor at the mall.

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