• Click here to watch video of the arrest.
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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.
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