Sarpy County seeking death penalty in November 2020 Sonic shooting
OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The Sarpy County Attorney’s office announced Monday that the county will seek the death penalty when prosecuting the suspect of the November 2020 shooting that left two restaurant employees dead and another two seriously hurt.
Roberto Carlos Silva Jr. of Omaha is now facing first-degree murder charges in the Nov. 21, 2020, attack on the Bellevue Sonic Drive-In near 15th Street and Cornhusker Road. Authorities say he “threw an incendiary device, ignited materials in a rental truck and opened fire,” wounding four employees, two of whom died.
Sarpy County Attorney Lee Polikov said during a news conference Monday afternoon that extensive investigation revealed new information that fit the aggravating circumstances necessary for a death-penalty sentence.
“I took these procedural steps today because I intend to seek the death penalty in this case,” Polikov said in a news release Monday. “I based my decision on the initial investigation as well as new information we received after the case was initially filed, which fit the aggravating circumstances necessary to seek the death penalty.”
Polikov said this was the first time in his 22 year career as County Attorney that he had sought the death penalty — a decision he said he didn’t come to lightly.
“I will tell you that there are nine circumstances outlined by statutes that are aggravating circumstances and the evidence we have, we haven’t presented in court so I don’t want to get into the details of why we think that a number of those nine aggravators are applicable to this case,” Polikov added.
The list of aggravators identified by Polikov’s team won’t be released to the public until the case is filed in district court, which could take weeks or months.
In total, Silva now faces more than a dozen felony charges, including two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of attempted first-degree murder and one count of first-degree arson.
Polikov’s new filing also includes three new counts of attempted first-degree murder for the three employees who escaped the attack uninjured. It also includes three new counts of use of a firearm to commit a felony.
“Even though there’s a lot of charges in this, I don’t feel it’s a case where we’re over-charging or trying to force anything from the defendant,” Polikov added.
If Silva is convicted in the shooting, a jury or three-judge panel will determine whether those aggravators are present. A three-judge panel makes the final decision about whether the death penalty is warranted following a conviction.
Polikov’s team says victims and family of victims had been notified about the update in Silva’s case, and that they understand why these steps are being taken. 6 News reached out to the families of several victims, but have not received a response at this time.
Since jailed for the attack, Silva has also been charged with attacking another inmate and is facing a felony charge of escape and three misdemeanor assault charges related to an Oct. 7 incident at the Sarpy County Jail, where he allegedly threw cups of feces and urine at corrections officers.
He has been moved from the Sarpy County Jail to the Tecumseh state prison.
Watch the full news conference
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