OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — No charges will be filed against two off-duty officers who shot and killed two men while working security at a nightclub in Nebraska’s largest city because the police chief said they were reacting after one of the men fired a gun at them.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said in a statement that he had reviewed witness statements and surveillance video and decided the Omaha police officers acted properly in using deadly force in the shooting early Saturday in that city.
Police on Thursday presented a compilation of the surveillance video from several businesses showing scenes outside the Extasis Night Club around 2 a.m. Saturday, shortly after the bar closed.
The video showed an argument with pushing and shoving outside the club between a group of people and the two men before they were shot. The officers who had been working security at the bar broke that up. Then, as the group of people involved in that argument were walking across a neighboring business’ parking lot, the two men later identified as Fernando Rodriguez-Juarez and Jonathan Hernandez-Rosales pulled up in a Jeep and confronted them.
Police said that Rodriguez-Juarez, who was driving the Jeep, held a gun out the passenger window and fired one shot at the group of people. The two officers returned fire, shooting 21 times and striking each man three times.
Rodriguez-Juarez, 26, and Hernandez-Rosales, 28, died at a hospital following the shooting.
Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said investigators determined both men were in the country illegally. Hernandez-Rosales was a citizen of Nicaragua and Rodriguez-Juarez was from Mexico.
Schmaderer said investigators aren’t sure how well the men understood English though one of them yelled for an ambulance in English after the shooting. The chief said there was no time for the two officers to issue any commands in English or Spanish before firing their weapons.
“The communication was the gunshot. The officers had to react to that instantly,” Schmaderer said.
The officers involved in the shooting were identified as Capt. Jay Leavitt and Officer Robert Soldo. Leavitt has been with the department for over 25 years and was involved in a different shooting last June that he was cleared in. Soldo has been an officer for more than eight years.
Last year, there were 1,165 people killed around the country by on-duty police, according to the database maintained by the Washington Post. The number of killings has been above 1,000 every year since 2020.
There were 15 officers nationwide charged with murder or manslaughter last year related to on-duty shootings, according to Bowling Green State University criminal justice professor Philip Stinson. He said there aren’t statistics readily available on off-duty shootings like the one in Omaha, but occasionally officers are charged with crimes related to their side jobs such as cases where an officer tries to work one of these security jobs while on the clock with their police department.
These kinds of off-duty security jobs are incredibly common across the country, said Robert McCrie, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and an expert in security management.
“It’s always available as additional income if the police officers seek to do it,” he said.
Businesses that want someone with the authority of law enforcement for protection are willing to pay a premium for a police officer, so these side jobs can be lucrative. But having an armed officer present instead of just a security guard or bouncer trained in de-escalation techniques does create risks, experts note. Only about 5% of security guards nationwide are armed.
“The possibility of a lethal event like this is one of the downsides of having an armed, officer on your premises,” McCrie said.
Often, police departments will track the off-duty jobs their officers take and may give them advice on which jobs to take because the officers’ actions reflect on the department even when they’re not on the job because they’re often in uniform while working these security jobs. Some departments even manage these jobs directly and require businesses to go through the department to hire officers. It wasn’t immediately clear how the Omaha department manages these jobs.
“An incident like the one in Omaha can come back and cause severe problems for the department and for the city,” McCrie said.
Most often, bars and nightclubs are the businesses hiring off-duty officers to provide security, but these days grocery stores, churches and other businesses also hire them. But McCrie said these jobs in bars come with the most risk because they can involve unruly crowds of people who have been drinking.
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