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Omaha man charged with murder in Sonic Drive-In shootings is ordered held without bail
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Omaha man charged with murder in Sonic Drive-In shootings is ordered held without bail

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A 23-year-old man charged with killing two Sonic Drive-In employees and injuring two others was ordered held without bail Tuesday in an appearance before a Sarpy County judge.

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Roberto C. Silva

Roberto C. Silva Jr. of Omaha was arrested Saturday night at the fast-food restaurant at 1307 Cornhusker Road in Bellevue. He is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of attempted first-degree murder, four counts of use of a weapon to commit a felony and first-degree arson.

Two of the employees, Nathan Pastrana, 22, and Ryan Helbert, 28, were declared dead at the scene. Two others, Zoey Lujan, 18, and Kenneth Gerner, 25, were taken in critical condition to the Nebraska Medical Center for treatment. A hospital spokesman said no information about their condition is being released.

During Silva’s court appearance Tuesday, Gage Cobb, a deputy Sarpy County attorney, said that Silva drove to the Sonic in a U-Haul truck and retrieved guns from the truck before setting it on fire. While he was walking toward the restaurant, Cobb said, Silva threw several incendiary devices.

The courtroom in the Sarpy County Jail had been cleared except for court officials before Silva walked into court in handcuffs. Judge Robert Wester, who could be seen via videoconference from the Sarpy County Courthouse, already had handled 11 other bail hearings.

Silva, who is 6-foot-5 and 315 pounds, stood next to the defense table with his head down and wearing a face mask.

When Wester asked Silva whether he wanted the Sarpy County Public Defender’s Office to represent him, Silva said yes. Wester then asked Silva whether he was employed. Silva replied in a deep voice, “Not any longer.”

After Wester read the charges against him, Silva was asked if he understood them. Silva then asked the judge if he could read a copy of the charges. The charges were faxed to the jail courtroom and Tom Strigenz, the Sarpy County public defender, held the papers in front of Silva so he could read them. When Silva finished reading, Wester asked him if he understood the charges. Silva said he did.

Wester set Silva’s preliminary hearing for Dec. 15.

Bellevue police were called to Sonic at 9:23 p.m. Saturday. Someone saw wires and pipes sticking out of the back of a U-Haul truck, which was on fire, police said. About a minute later, the incident was reported as a shooting.

Arriving officers spotted three of the injured Sonic workers inside the restaurant building and pulled them out to attempt lifesaving measures. Another wounded worker was found away from those three.

Minutes later, Silva was put in handcuffs as he lay face down on the ground.

Bellevue police officers first encountered Silva on Wednesday after Sonic employees called police to report that a man from out of state had reported that someone had been fraudulently using his Sonic app that night to purchase food at the Bellevue Sonic, including hamburgers and corn dogs.

When officers arrived at the Sonic, they saw a Toyota Corolla leaving the area. The license plate matched the description Sonic workers had given to dispatchers.

The officers stopped Silva’s car and interviewed him about the matter. They then arrested Silva and took him to the Sarpy County Jail. Silva was released from jail Thursday after posting 10% of $1,500 bail.

Officers found three firearms in Silva’s car during the Wednesday traffic stop. The guns were kept as evidence. Silva has a Nebraska concealed-carry permit, police said.

Officers found four other firearms Saturday near the Sonic, but police said Silva didn’t have any weapons on him when officers handcuffed him.

Tuesday morning, a public relations firm sent out a statement from Bryant Morrison, the franchise owner of the metro area Sonic stores, including the Bellevue location.

“The shooting deaths of two of our employees, Nathan Pastrana and Ryan Helbert, as well as critically injuring Zoey Reece Atalig Lujan and Kenneth Gerner, has stunned us all,” Morrison said in the statement. “We grieve for the families and friends of Nathan and Ryan and we hold Zoey and Kenneth in our hearts and prayers.

“We also pray for all of our employees and have provided counseling to assist them in the grieving process.

“We want to thank the first responders who arrived so quickly and who have worked tirelessly over the past few days.

“This store will remain closed until further notice.”

Silva’s mother on Monday reported to Omaha police that a man had left two harassing voicemails on her phone Sunday morning. In the first call, she said, the man said he will be smiling when the death penalty is carried out on her son. The man called back about 10 minutes later, she said, and told her that she and her husband were bad parents and then mentioned two of their children by name and said he hoped they won’t be as bad. The caller’s name and phone number showed up on her caller ID, according to the police report.

Community members gathered Sunday evening to mark the tragedy. Flowers, candles and a makeshift sign were displayed in a parking lot near the Sonic.

In addition to GoFundMe fundraisers for the people who were shot, at least two general fundraisers are underway. The Bellevue First Facebook page provides information on a plan to split donations equally among families of the four shooting victims. Donations to Bellevue First can be made at either Bellevue branch of Great Western Bank, according to the site.

kevin.cole@owh.com, 402-444-1272

Omaha World-Herald: Afternoon Update

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