Prosecutors will drop second-degree murder charges against a 24-year-old Omaha man accused of a fatal shooting on the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge.
Terrece R. Cox is expected to be released from jail Friday, after the murder charge and six other counts are dismissed.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine confirmed that the charges will be dropped. Cox had been scheduled to go on trial Monday.
Both Kleine and Cox's attorney, Bill Eustice, said witnesses were either evasive or uncooperative with police and prosecutors.
“It's very frustrating,” Kleine said. “But unless we have witnesses willing to stand up and say what happened, we can't move forward.”
Eustice said his client has maintained his innocence in the May 29 shooting death of Shamari Richards, 26. Cox was so adamant that he didn't shoot anyone that he refused to plead to lesser charges, Eustice said.
After reviewing 400 pages of police reports and police interviews, Eustice said, he had no idea what exactly happened on the bridge that night.
About a dozen young people were on the bridge about 1 a.m. At least seven of them, including a 16-year-old girl, had been drinking in celebration of the girl's birthday.
Then they came in contact with Richards and a few of his friends.
At some point, a young woman was punched. A confrontation ensued. Shots were fired.
Richards was killed. Kevin Jenkins, then 29, and Jeremy Fejeran, then 19, also were shot but survived.
A couple of witnesses initially pointed to Cox as the shooter, but they eventually hedged their accounts or their stories didn't make sense, Eustice said.
A witness said it appeared a gunman fired warning shots into the ground — one of the victims was hit in the foot. But other accounts indicated that Richards may have shot himself during an altercation with the gunman.
Shots were fired on the bridge, but shell casings from another gun were found at the base of the bridge, just to the north.
A mix of DNA, from as many as three people, was found on a gun recovered at the scene, Eustice said.
A surveillance camera on one side of the bridge wasn't working. Another one showed several members of the victim's group but didn't definitively show Cox, Eustice said.
Some witnesses told police they couldn't see anything because they didn't have their glasses on.
“The state and the defense were given multiple pieces of a puzzle that didn't fit together very well due to the quality of the evidence and the noncooperative attitude of the witnesses,” Eustice said. “The closer we got to trial, the more disjointed it became. Nobody's version remotely fit the evidence at the scene.”
Witnesses — even friends of the victims — were rude, uncooperative and argumentative with detectives investigating the slaying, Eustice said. And they were equally difficult with prosecutors.
“They just didn't get cooperation from anybody,” Eustice said.
Eustice is concerned that some of the witnesses might be interested in exacting street justice instead.
“That's what I'm fearful of,” he said.
Cox, he added, “has told me time and time again, 'I didn't kill anybody.'
“He teared up when I told him they were dropping charges. He had some serious, serious emotions.”