An off-duty mall security guard has been charged with making terroristic threats after he chased suspected shoplifters for 3 miles, threatening to shoot them.
An off-duty Douglas County sheriff’s deputy saw the chase and ended up firing shots at the alleged shoplifters’ minivan after the minivan drove toward him, Omaha police said.
The security guard, William Budka-Gray, 26, was charged Friday with three counts of making terroristic threats. Douglas County Judge Darryl Lowe ordered him held on $5,000 bail.
“Make sure you follow all the protocols in your job,” Lowe told Budka-Gray before moving on to the next case.
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office identified the deputy Friday evening as Cody Trindle, who has been with the Sheriff’s Office for six years.
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According to a police account, Budka-Gray, who was in street clothes and driving his own SUV, followed three teens, ages 16, 17 and 19, who may have stolen items from a department store at Oak View Mall, which is southeast of 144th Street and West Center Road. The teens said they heard Budka-Gray say, “Stop or I’ll shoot you,” and were afraid they were going to get shot.
The chase continued to 156th and S Streets, where the teens jumped from the minivan and ran away.
Trindle told Omaha police that he saw an SUV attempting to run a minivan off the road near 144th and West Center. Near 156th and S, after the minivan driver had slowed enough to let three passengers out, a witness told police he heard the deputy, who was out of his vehicle, yell, “Stop,” to the minivan driver. But the driver continued over a median toward S Street, and Trindle fired shots, police said.
No one was hit by bullets, police said.
The three male passengers later were caught by law enforcement officers. The male minivan driver also was taken into custody.
The teens involved are expected be charged with shoplifting, according to the Omaha Police Department.
Trindle’s account of the events was consistent with witness statements, according to the Police Department. He reportedly thought the driver of the SUV may have been armed “because he saw the driver’s hand holding a dark colored object while extended out the window as the SUV was chasing the minivan,” police said.
Trindle said in an interview with investigators that he fired his weapon because he believed the driver of the minivan was trying to hit him.
The driver of the minivan was found and his statements were also consistent with what the other occupants of the minivan described.
Investigators didn’t find a gun on Budka-Gray or in his SUV.
Amber Bakken, the general manager at Oak View Mall, said Friday that mall officials were cooperating with authorities.
“The safety and security of our shoppers at Oak View is our top priority,” she said, referring other questions to Professional Security Consultants, the business contracted to provide mall security.
Representatives of Professional Security Consultants could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.