Omaha Target shooting puts focus on Nebraska gun laws, mental health

Authorities respond to reports of shots fired at a Target in west Omaha on Jan. 31, 2023
Authorities respond to reports of shots fired at a Target in west Omaha on Jan. 31, 2023(WOWT)
Published: Feb. 7, 2023 at 12:10 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - The man who entered an Omaha Target with an AR-15-style rifle and began firing before he was killed by police had been repeatedly sent to psychiatric hospitals because of his schizophrenia.

Joseph Jones’ family had tried to take guns away from him multiple times. But because Jones never went through a formal hearing process, he was able to keep purchasing firearms legally.

Jones’ family and law enforcement records show multiple attempts to get Jones help and keep him safe. However, it all culminated last month at the Target store, where Jones fired multiple times at inanimate objects before being fatally shot by responding police.

In the last three years of his life, Jones was sent to psychiatric hospitals because of his schizophrenia and delusions that a drug cartel was after him. The Nebraska man once lay down on a highway in Kansas because he wanted to be run over by a truck, but officers tackled him as he ran in front of vehicles. Time and time again, his family and the police took away his guns.

In August 2021, a deputy was called because Derksen didn’t want to return a gun to his nephew, who had just been released from a psychiatric hospital. Derksen said Jones was paranoid, had been hearing voices, and had traveled through several states fearing a cartel was chasing him, according to a Sarpy County Sheriff’s Office incident report.

But Jones told the deputy that he was taking medication, he felt fine and had no plans to hurt anyone. The gun was clean, and the only conviction Jones had was for a DUI after he collided with another vehicle on his way home from a bar years earlier.

“I had no reason,” the deputy wrote in the report, “to believe Joseph could not possess a firearm.”

Nebraska isn’t among the 19 states with a red-flag law. Also known as extreme risk protection orders, they’re intended to restrict the purchase of guns or temporarily remove them from people who may hurt themselves or someone else.

A red-flag law has been proposed for Nebraska this year, but it hasn’t received a legislative hearing yet.