Nigel Phillips (left) and "Bear" Alexander Matthews (right) at a Revolutionary Action Party food distribution on April 11, 2021. Credit: Revolutionary Action Party (twitter).

A police chase led to a man’s death in North Omaha Thursday night, another incident of violence that’s brought familiar feelings of pain, disbelief and outrage for the community.

At 10:12 p.m. Omaha Police attempted to stop a 2011 blue Chevrolet Camaro near 34th Street and Laurel Avenue, according to the Omaha Police Department. The driver, heading northbound, passed through a stop sign, struck a car heading eastbound and exited the car with a handgun, police said in a press release early Friday morning.

After a brief chase through the neighborhood, officers found the man behind a house. Verbal commands were given to drop the weapon, police said, and eventually the man turned the gun on himself and shot himself, according to Omaha police. No shots were fired by Omaha police and no injuries were reported from the chase or accident.

An updated press release will be released today, police said. A public information officer with the Omaha Police Department said the officers were wearing body-worn cameras.

Immediately posts began flooding social media for the man, identified on social media as Nigel Phillips. The victim has not been identified by the Omaha Police Department.

“My heart broke 1,000,000 ways. No more words. None,” said one family member in a social media post.

For many the shooting doesn’t make any sense.

Posts on social media say Phillips had just started a t-shirt brand. A family member posted that Phillips was on his way to write a plan for his new small business. “Bear” Alexander Matthews, a longtime friend of Phillips, said in a Facebook post that Phillips “never had one depressive bone” in his body. Matthews wrote that no matter what Phillips was struggling with, he always had a smile on his face and looked forward to a future of raising his two kids and doing more work with the Revolutionary Action Party, of which he and Matthews were both members.

The local activist group has led protests against the police, in addition to community food pantries and civic engagement drives, recently bringing severed pig heads to a protest outside the Omaha Police Officers Association union hall.

“This brother, this comrade, was with us from the Beginning,” a Friday morning Facebook post by the activist group read. “He saw the message RAP was putting out and got behind it ten fold. He was one of our original members and was at the very first food [distribution].”

A public information officer with the Omaha Police Department said he learned Phillips was a member of the group following a question from The Reader on Friday morning. He said, to his knowledge, Phillips’ association with the group was not discussed during or following the incident Thursday night.

Many aren’t satisfied with the narrative so far distributed by the Omaha Police Department and have called to see the full, unedited body-worn camera footage.

The incident follows the death of Kenneth Jones, who was shot by police during a traffic stop in November of 2020. His family, and the public, waited months for the release of body-worn camera footage.

When it was released it only raised more questions about why the situation had to escalate to the point of a shooting death. Activists and community members hope to see more transparency this time.

“Nigel’s family and the community deserve immediate access to the evidence without barrier, unencumbered by the traditional processes of secrecy,” read a press release from Justice for James Scurlock, an activist group started after the shooting death of James Scurlock in 2020. “The public also deserves this evidence absent of the usual editorializing Chief [Todd] Schmaderer offers, which does nothing more than antagonize community members and compound harm.”

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Chris Bowling

Chris has worked for The Reader since January 2020. As an investigative reporter and news editor he’s taken deep dives into topics such as police transparency, affordable housing and COVID-19. Originally...

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