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Fatal shooting of a man by Omaha police sparks protest outside police headquarters
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Fatal shooting of a man by Omaha police sparks protest outside police headquarters

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The fatal shooting of a man by Omaha police sparked a protest outside police headquarters on Friday evening.

Omaha police arrested two people and gave three people citations, and tear gas was fired near 15th and Howard Streets, just north of Central Police Headquarters.

Kenneth Jones

Kenneth Jones

The protesters called on police to release video footage of the shooting death of Kenneth Jones, 35, who was shot by Omaha police during a traffic stop Thursday night.

Police said Friday in a press release that Jones reached for a gun that he had in his waistband before he was shot.

Peyton Zyla, a ProBLAC organizer, said that “until (police) prove that they didn’t murder a Black man, we’re not shutting up — not one bit.”

Bear Alexander, also of ProBLAC, called on police to release the names of the officers involved and for the formation of an independent review board.

Alexander and another protester were later driven to a hospital by a fellow protester who said the two had been maced and struck with either a baton or projectile.

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Bear Alexander leads a group of protesters outside the Omaha Police Department headquarters in downtown Omaha on Friday, November 20, 2020. Kenneth Jones, a Black man, was shot and killed by an officer after a traffic stop on Thursday night.

The protest began about 6 p.m., and as the evening continued, tensions escalated.

Scanner traffic indicated that something was thrown, prompting police to declare the protest an unlawful assembly at 9 p.m. At its height, the crowd numbered about 60 people. The crowd dispersed just before 10 p.m.

Police arrested one woman on suspicion of destruction of property and disorderly conduct and a man on suspicion of third degree assault on an officer and carrying a concealed weapon, according to the Omaha Police Department. Police said officers cited two people on suspicion of disorderly conduct and another on suspicion of obstructing an officer.

Earlier Friday evening, police provided this written account of what happened during the traffic stop near 27th and Harrison Streets:

Officers stopped a car at 7:27 p.m. Thursday. As two officers got out of their cruiser, their body cameras captured them yelling “Stop reaching!”

The backseat passenger, later identified as Jones, can be seen moving around as the officers walked toward the car. The officers yelled three times for everyone to put up their hands.

Police said that four people were in the car and that everyone except Jones complied by putting their hands outside the car windows.

The officer who was on the car’s driver’s side tried to open Jones’ door several times while yelling at him to “open the door!” The officer then used his flashlight to break the car window to get the door open. The officer then yelled to Jones to “get out of the car!”

The officer reached in to grab Jones just as Jones turned and began moving toward the passenger side of the vehicle. The body camera shows Jones continuing to pull away from the officers as they pulled him from the car.

The cruiser camera shows the officers struggling to get Jones out of the vehicle. Once Jones was out, an officer can be heard saying, “Keep your hands where I can see them!” The officer then says, “Watch his right hand! He’s digging! He’s digging! He’s got a gun! He’s got a gun!”

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The officer yelled: “Gun! Gun! Gun!”

Moments later, an officer fired four shots. Police said Jones fell to the ground and continued moving as the officers yelled for him to “show his hands.”

One of the officers contacted emergency dispatchers, asking that they send a rescue squad to the scene. The officers then began performing CPR on Jones.

A Springfield .45-caliber handgun, with a round in the chamber, was found on the ground underneath Jones. He was taken to Nebraska Medical Center, where he died from his injuries.

The police press release did not indicate what led to the traffic stop.

Both officers were wearing body cameras, which were activated and recorded footage of the incident, but one of the cameras became dislodged during the struggle and did not capture the entire event on video but did capture the entirety on audio, according to the press release.

The camera of the officer who discharged his weapon did capture the entire event on audio and video. The cruiser camera captured only the beginning portion of the incident because the struggle took the officers from camera view, but it was on the entire time.

Footage from the officers cameras was not released.

Investigating officers spoke to witnesses who reported hearing the officers give loud verbal commands to people in the car to “show their hands.” A witness said he could see the man reach for his waistband and then saw an object he believed to be a gun in his hand as he turned toward the officer.

The witness said he thought the man was going to shoot the officers when he saw him turn toward them.

Family members of Jones, gathered Friday near the apartment of Jones’ mother, declined to comment on the shooting. A woman who identified herself as Jones’ sister said the family was still trying to process what had happened.

During a press conference Friday, Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert said that a grand jury will investigate the shooting and that the two officers involved have been put on administrative leave. The officers’ names were not released.

Both officers were to be interviewed, and ballistic testing was scheduled.

Only one officer fired a weapon, according to police. That officer’s gun was taken into evidence. The handgun that was recovered from the scene will be traced through a federal database.

Jones’ autopsy was scheduled for Friday.

Jones was released from the Nebraska Department of Corrections in 2018 after serving time for being a felon in possession of a deadly weapon, police said. 

Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said in a statement: “We would like to express our condolences to the family and friends of Kenneth Jones and the rest of the community that are affected by this incident. We are committed to conducting a thorough investigation and providing the public with complete details.”

Omaha World-Herald: Afternoon Update

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