Two victims, both attacked from behind in the early morning hours in store parking lots. Police are trying to determine if the incidents are related and if the three suspects arrested Tuesday are the only ones responsible.
The trio picked on the wrong victim Tuesday morning, an off-duty police officer. The robbery attempt was the second in as many days.
Shortly after 1:30 a.m. Monday, 28-year-old Amanda Lieb was leaving the Walgreens at 132nd and West Center. "The victim was walking towards her vehicle and was struck from behind with a bottle," says Omaha Police Sgt. Teresa Negron.
A young man stole her purse, car keys, and merchandise that she had just purchased. He got into a white, four-door sedan occupied by two other suspects and drove off.
It happened again Tuesday just after midnight in the Baker's parking lot at 136th and P in Millard. This time, they targeted the wrong person, an off-duty police officer.
"He was able to prevent the suspect from striking him from behind with the bottle and struggled with the victims, obviously his training added to what he was able to do," says Sgt. Negron.
The officer, Steve Jennum, has had extensive training in the martial arts, trained enough to instruct others. In fact, he's a one-time Ultimate Fighter Champion.
Jennum struggled with one of the suspects until another pulled a knife. Jennum says he backed off and the suspects fled.
Jennum reported it to police and then started searching the area for the three in the white car who attacked him. He found the car parked at 131st and D Plaza, then notified his police friends and they arrested 20-year-old Manuel Robles.
Robles was booked as an accessory to a felony. Police later arrested the two other suspects, 18-year-old Alisha Sickels of Omaha and 18-year old Jessica Whittaker of Washington, Illinois.
Police caution us that even though they have special patrols out in some parking lots, it's up to us to be aware of our surroundings and any potential danger.
They advise us to park as close to the door of an establishment as possible and beneath a light.
There are other safety tips to keep in mind. "If you have that gut feeling, just get away from that person you feel is suspicious, as far away as possible, carry a whistle, carry mace, talk on your cell phone," says Deputy Cindy Christiansen with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department.
If you have your hands full with a lot of packages, you could be an easier target, so ask security to walk you to your car and if there isn't security, be extra alert.
Another thing, make sure you have your keys out and ready to unlock your car long before you ever get to it and if someone does make you feel unsafe, get inside your car and lock the doors as quickly as possible.
"Criminals target everywhere and just because it is west Omaha does not mean you will not become a victim, so you have to always be aware before you leave the house of what could happen," says Deputy Christiansen.