Experts say Omaha arrest video raises questions - Omaha.com
Published Thursday, March 28, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 2:35 pm
Experts say Omaha arrest video raises questions

• Click here to watch video of the arrest.

* * * * *

Outside experts who viewed a video of Omaha police conduct at 33rd and Seward Streets said one of the notable things about the incident was the decision by police officers to pursue a man into a private residence.

“Why did they chase him into the house? He looks like an issue but not a threat,” said John Crank, a criminal justice professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. “Why did they chase him into the house? I can't answer that.”

The World-Herald asked experts in police procedures to view the video, taken by a neighbor and posted on YouTube.

The March 21 arrests of three men led to complaints of excessive force, an internal investigation by the Police Department and the temporary reassignment of two officers. A third officer involved in the incident has been placed on paid administrative leave.

Police Chief Todd Schmaderer has vowed to oversee a thorough investigation of the allegations.

Crank and Roy Bedard, a national law enforcement expert from Florida, watched the video this week.

They offered their opinions with a caveat — there is no way to know what happened outside the frame of the video, or to hear the full exchange between police and the men at the scene. Without that information, they said, there is no way to judge whether police acted correctly.

“Without knowing all the details, it's impossible to make a valid decision, but a valid decision is based on evidence,” said Bedard, a former police officer. “And what we don't have right now is all the evidence.”

Still, the experts raised some of the same questions being asked by community members who have viewed the video.

The incident started with the towing of cars with expired license plates and escalated with a “help an officer” radio call. About a dozen police vehicles responded.

The video, shot from an upstairs window across the street, shows Octavious Johnson being taken down, handcuffed and apparently punched multiple times by an officer.

Officers also can be heard on the video yelling at his brother, Juaquez Johnson, who was on the sidewalk and yelling at officers. He was videotaping the incident, a family member said.

Police say Octavious Johnson became combative after his car screeched to a halt in front of officers who were investigating cars with expired plates that were parked on the street.

After Juaquez Johnson went inside a nearby house, several officers raced after him and placed him under arrest on suspicion of obstruction.

Sharon Johnson, the men's aunt, told The World-Herald that police told Juaquez Johnson to stop videotaping. He ran inside the house to get away from them, she said, and police followed to get the video.

A third brother, Demetrius Johnson, was arrested on suspicion of obstructing police and for having an outstanding warrant. Sharee Johnson, mother of the men, has obtained a form to file a misconduct allegation against the Police Department.

Both Crank and Bedard said the officer who took down Octavious Johnson may have done the right thing, if the officers believed there was a violation of the law. However, if an officer was simply offended by what was said, there's no crime, Bedard said.

Both Bedard and Crank were concerned about the officers who followed Juaquez Johnson inside the house.

Bedard said that in most cases, officers need a search warrant or to show that there were urgent circumstances — such as the officers believing that weapons were inside and about to be used — to justify entry into a private residence.

“We can't hear if someone is saying, 'I'm going inside to get my gun,'” Bedard said. “Did brother No. 2 break the law or just make the police officers angry or upset?”

Schmaderer says that the investigation is ongoing and that the public will be updated as information becomes available.

This isn't the first time Omaha police officers' actions have been criticized after they were recorded on tape.

In May 2011, Robert Wagner was arrested at Creighton University Medical Center, where he had gone to visit a cousin who had been shot and was dying.

Wagner said he did not resist as officers jumped on his back, hit and kicked him and stunned him with an electroshock gun. He said he was “viciously beaten'' in the incident, some of which was recorded by a surveillance camera.

Two of the officers involved in the Wagner arrest, Jackie Dolinsky and Aaron Pennington, were fired. An arbitrator overturned both terminations and reinstated them.

Contact the writer: 402-444-3100, maggie.obrien@owh.com

The arrest video


Warning: This video contains obscene language.

Contact the writer: Maggie O'Brien

maggie.o'brien@owh.com    |   402-444-3100    |  

Maggie is a cops and breaking news reporter for Omaha.com.

Crack ring's leaders join others in prison as a result of Operation Purple Haze
A voice of experience: Ex-gang member helps lead fight against Omaha violence
Church is pressing its case for old Temple Israel site
OPPD board holding public forum, open house May 7
Intoxicated man with pellet gun climbs billboard's scaffold; is arrested
Saturday forecast opens window for gardening; Easter egg hunts look iffy on Sunday
Last day of 2014 Legislature: Praise, passage of a last few bills and more on mountain lions
The thrill of the skill: Omaha hosts statewide contest for students of the trades
'The war is not over,' Chambers says, but legislative session about is
A recap of what got done — and what didn't — in the 2014 legislative session
PAC funded by Senate candidate Ben Sasse's great-uncle releases Shane Osborn attack ad
Teen killed at Gallagher Park was shot in head as he sat in SUV, friend who was wounded says
When judge asks, Nikko Jenkins says ‘I killed them’
New UNO center strengthens ties between campus, community
Threat found in Millard West bathroom deemed 'not credible'
New public employee pay data: Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy Counties, plus utilities
Nebrasks health officials to advertise jobs via drive-thru
Coral Walker named Omaha police officer of the year
Sarah Palin, Mike Lee coming to Nebraska for Ben Sasse rally
Prescription drug drop-off is April 26
Database: How much did Medicare pay your doctor?
Rather than doing $250K in repairs, owner who lives in lot behind 94-year-old house in Dundee razes it
NB 30th Street lane closed
State Patrol, Omaha police conduct vehicle inspections
Bernie Kanger formally promoted to Omaha fire chief
< >
COLUMNISTS »
Breaking Brad: At least my kid never got stuck inside a claw machine
We need a new rule in Lincoln. If your kid is discovered inside the claw machine at a bowling alley, you are forever barred from being nominated for "Mother of the Year."
Breaking Brad: How many MECA board members can we put in a luxury suite?
As a stunt at the Blue Man Group show, MECA board members are going to see how many people they can stuff into one luxury suite.
Kelly: Creighton's McDermotts put good faces on an Omaha tradition
A comical roast Wednesday night in Omaha brought fans of Creighton basketball laughter by the bucketful. This time it was McJokes, not McBuckets, that entertained the Bluejay crowd.
Kelly: New $24M UNO center embodies spirit of newlywed crash victim
Jessica Lutton Bedient was killed by a drunken driver at age 26 in 2010. Thursday, the widowed husband and other family members will gather with others at the University of Nebraska at Omaha to dedicate a permanent memorial to Jessica.
Breaking Brad: How much would you pay for a corn dog?
The Arizona Diamondbacks have a new concession item: a $25 corn dog. For that kind of money, it should be stuffed with Bitcoin.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
The Jaipur in Rockbrook Village
Half Off Fine Indian Cuisine & Drinks! $15 for Dinner, or $7 for Lunch
Buy Now
PHOTO GALLERIES »
< >
SPOTLIGHT »
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
WORLD-HERALD ALERTS »
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for Omaha.com's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »