From the time Omaha police officers stopped the car, to the moment Kenneth Jones hit the ground with four bullet wounds, one minute and seven seconds had passed. But the quick use of force was justified, said Chief of Police Todd Schmaderer.
On Monday afternoon, Schmaderer presented Omaha Police Department’s findings of the Thursday, Nov. 19 evening traffic stop, including stills of officer body-worn camera footage and recounting of eyewitness testimony.
At around 7:30 p.m.., officers Dan Faulkner, 29, and Officer Richard Martier, 31, were driving south on 27th Street near the Strafford Square Apartments in south Omaha when they noticed a Dodge Charger stopped in the middle of the road. The car started and stopped over half a block before officers turned on their overhead lights and pulled the car over, thinking the driver may be intoxicated.
Officers immediately saw Jones, 35, in the backseat “reaching around” and making erratic movements. They drew their weapons and approached the car.
“Officers can see something’s not right with this situation and they’re instantly alert,” Schmaderer said.
As they approached officers made several commands for Jones to open the door, show his hands and stop reaching around. With no compliance, officers broke the window of the Charger, pulling Jones onto the street. Officer Faulkner reached into Jones waistband, following his arm to his crouch where he was holding a gun, Schmaderer said.
Faulkner backed away shouting “He’s got a gun. He’s got a gun. And “Gun. Gun. Gun.” Faulkner fired four shots believing Jones was ready to shoot him. A loaded .45 Springfield handgun was found on the ground near the scene. Jones never fired on the officers.
Officers then performed CPR until Jones was transported to Nebraska Medical Center where he was then pronounced dead.
No one pulled over in the car was found to be intoxicated. Officers found a bottle of clear liquid on Jones that they determined to be PCP, according to Schmaderer.
Schmaderer said that Jones’ behavior in the backseat was reason enough for officers to draw their weapons. Jones’ noncompliance as well as the presence of the gun meant that officers were within OPD’s use of force policy, Schmaderer said.
Since the day after Jones’ death, protesters, organized by ProBLAC, which along with the ACLU is suing the City of Omaha and OPD for brutalizing protesters in July, have gathered outside the OPD’s headquarters on 15th and Howard streets. They demanded OPD release the body-worn camera footage. Schmaderer says OPD will not release the footage as to not influence the jury of an ongoing grandy jury investigation.
“Arguably if you’re going to taint a jury pool, it’s going to be with that evidence,” Schmaderer said.
On the first night of protests, police fired pepper balls and arrested several protesters. On the next night, counter-protesters confronted the ProBlac protesters.
Protesters also demanded a more transparent and civilian-led investigation of Jones’ death. The question of accountability is a strong topic in the City of Omaha’s contract with the Omaha Police Officers Association. The new contract establishes a three-member reprimand committee, two members of which are selected by the union and the city. Protesters said the transparency needs to go further as the only civilian-led oversight committee holds too little power and this reprimand committee wouldn’t put any more power in citizens’ hands.
The timeliness, only a little more than a week since public testimony about the union contract in front of the Omaha City Council, seemed too ironic to some.
“The whole personification of the Omaha Police Department is just empty gestures and huge fallacies and huge facades,” said Bear Alexander, an organizer with ProBlac, on Friday. “They like to make it seem like they’re one of the best in the [country] and then 10 days later they murder a Black man?”
But Schmaderer thinks that Jones death and the police union contract are completely separate issues and that equating the two is just “piling it on.” Schmaderer he’s still waiting to have constructive dialogues.
“There is a group that will not talk to us on any level,” he said. I wish we could break ground…but it doesn’t seem likely at this point.”