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'He was so loved by his family': Vigil held in Omaha for 14-year-old shooting victim
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'He was so loved by his family': Vigil held in Omaha for 14-year-old shooting victim

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Bruce Williams

The Rev. Bruce Williams speaks to a crowd gathered in remembrance of 14-year-old Desmond Harrison.

Offering prayers in a time of grief, a group of community members and first responders gathered Friday in a North Omaha neighborhood.

The crowd of 40 met near 18th and Spencer Streets in honor of Desmond Harrison. The 14-year-old was killed in a shooting Tuesday that Omaha police are investigating as retaliatory.

Harrison was among four teens to die from gunfire in the past week amid a spike in shootings and 911 calls.

Desmond Harrison

Desmond Harrison

“He was so loved by his family,” Harrison’s aunt, who asked not be named, said during the vigil.

The Rev. Bruce Williams organized the event, as he has hundreds of other memorial gatherings since 2010 as a leader of the group known as the First Responders.

He said the spike in gun violence Omaha is currently experiencing has been seen before, “but not to the degree of the number of young people who have been losing their lives.”

“They’re just getting younger and younger, and that hurts,” Williams said.

As the community gathered to remember Harrison, police continued to investigate last week’s shooting deaths of 17-year-olds Ja’Vondre’ McIntosh and Jia’Quan Williams. Authorities continue to search for 17-year-old Lerajai Key and 16-year-old Terrance Moore in connection with the shooting.

In an unrelated shooting, 15-year-old Cornail Hill was killed Thursday in the 5700 block of North 33rd Avenue. That shooting also remains under investigation.

Omaha police ask anyone with information about a shooting to contact Crime Stoppers at 402-444-STOP or omahacrimestoppers.org. Tipsters remain anonymous and are eligible for a cash reward of $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest of a homicide fugitive.

In light of the recent violence, probation officers are changing how they operate in Omaha. On Wednesday, State Probation Administrator Deb Minardi said she directed her roughly 130 probation officers who work in Omaha to consider whether home visits are needed and, if they are, to bring law enforcement along.

“I don’t think that there’s any secret that the current gang activity is concerning, and I want my officers safe,” she said.

Minardi said the officers monitor about 4,000 adults and 400 juveniles in Omaha. A similar directive about home visits went into place during the pandemic to avoid the spread of COVID-19. Instead of following written policy “verbatim,” Minardi said, officers should decide on a case-by-case basis whether to go to a parolee’s home. The decision will be reviewed daily and reversed when necessary.

“We’re just trying to be safe, we’re trying to be strategic,” she said. “Our goal is to ensure community safety and help our clients get back on the right track and turn their lives around.”


jwade@owh.com, 402-444-1067

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Jessica Wade covers breaking news, crime and the Omaha zoo. Follow her on Twitter @Jess_Wade_OWH. Phone: 402-444-1067

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