The scene inside 3321 Seward St. was chaotic.
At least 10 police officers had burst into the two-story house, according to an account from an eyewitness. The officers spread throughout the home, appearing to look for something.
Two groups of officers pulled brothers Juaquez and Demetrius Johnson to the living room floor. They subdued the men and punched them, said the witness, a family member.
Just 10 minutes later, the officers were gone. They took the brothers with them, sending them to jail along with their older brother, who had been arrested outside.
And when it was all over, the younger brothers' cellphones were nowhere to be found.
The only other family member inside the house that day detailed her version Saturday of what happened once police entered.
The March 21 incident led to the firing of four police officers — including a sergeant — and allegations of excessive force, evidence tampering and a possible cover-up by officers.
Police Chief Todd Schmaderer, who announced the firings Friday, has said he can't comment on specifics of the incident, citing the ongoing internal investigation and provisions in the police union contract that prohibit him from discussing personnel issues.
Sharon Johnson, the brothers' aunt, said in an interview that police officers followed Juaquez into the house after the arrest of his brother Octavious outside. Demetrius was already inside the house.
She said that during the rush of people into the house, she was knocked over in her wheelchair and unable to get up. From her limited viewpoint, she said, she could see officers “piling” on Demetrius and Juaquez in the living room and punching them. At one point, Demetrius was curled up in a fetal position, trying to protect himself, Sharon Johnson said.
“I was screaming, 'What are you doing to my boys? What are you doing?' I was screaming at them to stop,” she said. “I couldn't even see my boys because there were so many officers on top of them.”
Neither Demetrius nor Juaquez was at the house for the interview Saturday. Octavious and his mother were present, along with Sharon Johnson.
Other officers were “rummaging” around the home, said Sharee Johnson, mother of the three men and Sharon's twin sister. Sharee wasn't there at the time, but said she based her account on what her sons and sister told her. The women and brothers share the home.
“They were definitely searching for something,” Sharee Johnson said.
After the officers left, both Juaquez's and Demetrius' cellphones were missing, the family said.
Juaquez, 23, had used his phone to record Octavious' arrest outside, and Demetrius, 22, used his to record what was happening inside the home once officers came in, the family said. Sharon Johnson has said the police told Juaquez to stop recording, and that's when he ran inside.
Across the street, a neighbor recorded Octavious' arrest and posted it on YouTube. An officer can be seen on the video taking down Octavious and apparently striking him multiple times. Also visible are the officers entering the house after Juaquez ran inside.
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Octavious, 28, acknowledged Saturday that he was angry, shouting and less than polite to the officer who arrested him. However, at no time did he resist, he said.
The officer “told me he was going to use force,” Octavious said. “My face was busted up, and I was yelling at my brother to get his camera out.”
The altercation started over the towing of vehicles and escalated into a top-priority “help an officer” radio call. Altogether, 21 officers and two command officers were at the scene.
What happened inside the home — as well as findings of an ensuing Police Department investigation — formed part of the basis for Schmaderer's decision to terminate some of the officers. Three additional officers were placed on administrative leave, and an eighth was reassigned.
The chief has said his department continues to investigate and could determine that more disciplinary action is warranted.
In addition, Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine's office is conducting its own investigation, and has brought in nine Nebraska State Patrol investigators to help. That could lead to criminal charges of evidence tampering and witness tampering.
Despite what happened, the Johnsons said they're not angry with police. Sharon Johnson said they empathize with the officers who were fired. But she said the incident changed the family forever.
“I'm sad,” Sharon Johnson said. “I'm sad that anybody had to lose their jobs.”
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