Omaha man facing terroristic threats charges after 911 calls near food pantry

Published: Aug. 23, 2022 at 7:46 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - An Omaha man was arrested Tuesday after allegedly causing panic in the city three months ago.

John Channels, 27, was booked on five counts of terroristic threats and one count of use of a weapon.

Court records show that on May 19, there were 911 calls about an active shooter at Catholic Charities near 92nd and Bedford streets. People said someone was actively firing and that there were multiple victims on the ground.

When officers arrived, they were told it was an active shooter drill or shooting exercise.

According to court documents, officers said the organizer and actor of the active shooter event was Channels and that he identified himself as an Offutt civilian police officer. Police said they discovered he had been firing blanks from a handgun and staged people throughout the area to act as victims so that employees would see them as they fled the building.

But some employees of Catholic Charities were unaware of it — as were others who called for help.

John Channels, 27.
John Channels, 27.(PHOTO: WOWT)

While investigating the scene and interviewing employees, the documents state, police determined a number of staff there were unaware of the training event and had believed the shots fired and victims they encountered were real and part of an active shooter incident.

Omaha Police and Fire departments, Douglas County Sheriff deputies, and Douglas County 911 were made aware of the planned training event. Six officers in all were dispatched along with two county deputies and nine OFD personnel, the documents state.

OPD spoke to a woman at Catholic Charities who said she and another director had hired Channels around April 28 to conduct the training and that he had stressed to them that local law enforcement would be present during the training event and would participate. Channels would play the gunman and engage his victims in view of employees to elicit a fear response and gauge their reactions, the documents state, and he would then start shooting people outside before making his way into the building with keys provided by staff.

Channels had allegedly stated that he specifically did not want the staff to be informed the incident was only a drill so that they would feel as though they were in danger, according to court documents. The director told authorities after the drill that she and others were uncomfortable with the idea of not fully informing staff but trusted his expertise, documents state. Plus, they said, Channels had given assurances that he would take care of all of the necessary notifications.

Digital producer Taleisha Newbill contributed to this report.