February 12, 2016

Ongoing stand-off in Omaha residential neighborhood

A large residential area near 140th and Burdette Street in Omaha is blocked off as law enforcement investigates a stand-off situation.

Douglas County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Tom Wheeler says, “About 10:30 we received a phone call from an individual who said he had been shot. He said his girlfriend was inside the residence and that she was being held hostage.  Officers from the Omaha Police Department and Douglas County Sheriff responded.  We sent up a perimeter and we have a hostage negotiator.”

Chief Deputy Wheeler is hoping for a peaceful resolution.

Residents in that neighborhood were told to stay inside their homes and in the basement if at all possible. They are not calling for an evacuation but may if the situation escalates.

Bill to keep some injured in police pursuits from collecting damages advances

Sen. Dan Watermeier/Photo courtesy of Unicameral Information Office

Sen. Dan Watermeier/Photo courtesy of Unicameral Information Office

Fewer people injured in police car chases would be able to file for damages under a bill advancing in the Unicameral.

LB 188 tightens the definition of innocent third party in a police pursuit, making a change in the law passed in 1981.

Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha sponsored the original law and mounted an unsuccessful filibuster against LB 188. After lawmakers voted to end the filibuster, they advanced the bill on a 34-6 vote.

The bill would prohibit a person convicted of a crime or who did not try to convince the driver to end the pursuit from filing a civil lawsuit against a governmental body, such as the state, a city, or a county.

During legislative floor debate, Chambers asserted that while the sponsor intends to shield cities and counties as well as the state from big damage awards, he actually will encourage lawsuits.

“That’s what this kind of legislation encourages. It encourages litigation. But, it goes a step beyond that. It makes it absolutely essential,” Chambers stated. “The family of the injured third party or the injured third party has no choice other than to file the lawsuit.”

The sponsor, Sen. Dan Watermeier of Syracuse, acknowledged that Sen. Chambers correctly acted on behalf of people injured in police pursuits when he authored the law enacted in 1981.

“Thirty years ago, 35 years ago, when he enacted these police pursuit statutes in law, they have done a lot of good between now and then,” according to Watermeier. “But, honestly folks, it’s an overreach now to say that a person that’s in the vehicle is automatically considered innocent.”

Watermeier has agreed to try to address some objections raised by Chambers during legislative floor debate before the bill returns for second-round debate.

Arrest warrant issued for man accused of causing a deadly Omaha accident

A warrant has been issued for a 19 year old Omaha man charged with motor vehicle homicide. Authorities say Eswin Mejia was intoxicated and street racing when he rear ended Sarah Root’s vehicle on January 31st.  She later died at an Omaha hospital.  Police say his blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit.

Omaha Police Deputy Chief Dave Baker says Mejia is from Honduras and is in the country illegally. He has been in the U-S four or five years and attended a local school.  The accident investigator did request an immigration detainer be placed on Mejia at the time of arrest due to flight risk.  Deputy Chief Baker says Mejia’s brother posted the required 10% of the $50,000 bond set by a judge prior to that detainer being issued earlier this week.

Mejia failed to show up to a court ordered monitoring program this week. Deputy Chief Baker says, “Our Fugitive Task Force is currently looking for Mejia. They have visited several addressed and visited with family members and known associates for the past several days.  We haven’t located him yet but we are continuing to do so.  We don’t know at this point whether he is still in the city.”

Deputy Chief Baker also stresses that in this type of situation, immigration has nothing to do with the criminal charges Mejia faces. Immigration only plays a role in whether or not the person is a flight risk.

Sales of Nebraska’s sesquicentennial license plate off to slow start

NE-150-PlateThe Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is seeing little interest in a new license plate commemorating the 150th anniversary of Nebraska’s statehood.

Rhonda Lahm, DMV director, says since sales began in October, roughly 230 have been ordered.

“We didn’t know exactly what to expect,” Lahm tells Nebraska Radio Network. “It’s a unique plate and, obviously, it’s a unique time. We know there hasn’t been a lot of talk out in the communities yet regarding the sesquicentennial, so we anticipate as more conversation happens out in the public at large, that the plate sales will probably pick up.”

The state’s 150th anniversary is March 1, 2017, and Lahm says the plates will be available through 2022.

“We’ve provided sample plates to the county treasurers and we’ve provided posters, and it’s on our website,” Lahm says about promoting the plate. “We’ve also had social media on our Facebook page. A lot of the marketing is being done through the Sesquicentennial Commission.”

The Nebraska 150 plates cost an additional $70, with most of that going to the state’s Sesquicentennial Commission.

Speaker Hadley offended Sen. Kintner compares lawmakers to monkeys (AUDIO)

Speaker Galen Hadley

Speaker Galen Hadley

Speaker of the Legislature, Sen. Galen Hadley of Kearney, took to the floor of the Unicameral to criticize Sen. Bill Kintner of Papillion for an op-ed piece he wrote.

Hadley lashed out at Kintner during a speech delivered from the legislative floor.

“I am just getting sick and tired of people in this body bashing this body,” Hadley began.

Hadley took offense at an op-ed piece published by the Plattsmouth Journal in which Kintner compared institutions to monkeys trained not to disrupt the status quo.

“How disrespectful can you be of this body to liken it to a bunch of monkeys?” Hadley asked.

The article used an analogy often called “five wet monkeys,” which weaves a tale of caged monkeys seeking to grab a banana suspended at the top of the cage. When a monkey makes an attempt to get the banana, all five are sprayed with cold water. The monkeys soon learn not to try to grab the banana. The negative re-enforcement continues even though the monkeys are no longer sprayed with water. Even when new monkeys are introduced in the cage, they enforce the no-banana rule.

Sen. Bill Kintner/Photo courtesy of Unicameral Information Office

Sen. Bill Kintner/Photo courtesy of Unicameral Information Office

Kintner has no regrets about the article he wrote.

“Absolutely not, it makes the perfect point,” Kintner tells Nebraska Radio Network. “And the fact that it’s aggravating people, I know I hit the nail on the head. We want this debate: the way we’ve always done things, is that how it has to be or is there maybe a different way, maybe even a better way? Let’s talk about it.”

Is Kintner offended by the Speaker’s criticism?

“Hey, this is a big boy’s game and we do big boy things and if you get offended by someone, you’re probably in the wrong place.”

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [1 min.]

AUDIO:  Speaker Galen Hadley of Kearney criticizes Sen. Bill Kintner during floor speech. [4 min.]

YouTube video of Col. Casey Haskins using the Five Wet Monkeys story: