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Mark Ward pedals his bicycle across the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge after 1 a.m. several times a week, returning to Omaha from the Council Bluffs casinos.
Ward said if the weather had been nice early Wednesday, he might have been riding across the bridge when a fatal shooting occurred.
He often sees men in groups of three to five hanging out there when he passes by in the early-morning hours. He said he might think twice before bicycling the bridge again late at night.
“It's kind of spooky,” Ward said. “Now that I think about it, I could easily get mugged and thrown over the railing into the river and no one would see a thing.”
The shooting on the Omaha landmark killed Sharmari K. Richards, 26, and wounded Kevin Jenkins, 29, and Jeremy Fejeran, 19. Jenkins and Fejeran were expected to survive. One person was taken into custody for questioning.
One of the victims was shot in the stomach, another in the foot, another in the hand, according to emergency dispatch reports.
Omaha police were trying to determine whether Richards accidentally shot his friends and himself during a struggle. According to a police source:
Several intoxicated young men and women — some from rival gangs 40th Avenue and Hilltop — were hanging out on the bridge. Words were exchanged. Punches were thrown. At some point, Richards pulled out a revolver, and a struggle began over the gun.
Richards' criminal history included being sentenced in 2011 to a year in jail for being a felon in possession of a firearm. Jenkins was convicted of robbery in 2003 and assault and battery in 2002.
Several runners and cyclists were using the bridge Wednesday afternoon after the crime scene tape was taken down. They did not appear to notice blood spots that trailed from the middle of the bridge to the end of the bridge on the Omaha side.
Neon orange circles were drawn around some of the blood stains. Glass was scattered across the center of the bridge. The exact location of the 1:20 a.m. shooting was not clear.
The bridge, which opened in 2008, has become one of the metropolitan area's top attractions for tourists, runners and bicyclists.
It is open 24 hours a day, unless weather or repairs force it to close. The plaza on the Omaha side closes at 11 p.m. daily, as do all city parks.
Ward, 50, said it would be a shame if authorities closed the bridge at night, as with city parks. He would rather see officials beef up security or install cameras on the bridge.
Lt. Darci Tierney, an Omaha police spokeswoman, said police officers routinely patrol the area around the bridge. Tierney said the bridge has call boxes that will dial 911 directly if anyone needs help. A private security officer was among the 911 callers about the shooting.
In order to get to the pedestrian bridge from Omaha, visitors have to walk through at least part of the plaza — that would be a curfew violation late at night. The curfew rules, however, are not enforced regularly, said Brook Bench, acting director of the Omaha Parks and Recreation Department.
In Council Bluffs, the area around the bridge doesn't close at night, Police Capt. Scott Milner said.
Milner said police and parks officials are looking at whether to impose a curfew now that the city's new Tom Hanafan River's Edge Park has opened on the Council Bluffs side of the bridge.
Dominic Riley of Council Bluffs took an afternoon walk across the bridge Wednesday. Riley didn't know about the shooting, but he said it wouldn't deter him from taking a stroll every now and then.
“I'll be more cautious of my surroundings, but this is nothing new,” he said. “Shootings happen all of the time in Omaha.”
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