Omaha officer investigated after shooting suspect in the back

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 26, 2015 5:12 PM

By Kevin Murphy

(Reuters) - A grand jury will investigate whether an Omaha policeman broke any laws when he fatally shot an unarmed man in the back in a confrontation after the suspect allegedly committed a robbery, officials said on Thursday.

Officer Alvin Lugod, 31, is being investigated in the shooting death on Monday of Danny Elrod, 39, Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer told a news conference.

A state grand jury will hear the case and the FBI will view video from the scene, Schmaderer said, adding he did not consider the shooting to be criminal.

The incident comes during heightened attention toward police shootings after a grand jury's decision in November not to indict a white Ferguson, Missouri, policeman in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black man. The officer in the Omaha case was described by police as Asian/Pacific Islander. Elrod was white.

Schmaderer said Elrod robbed a Family Dollar store about 6:30 p.m. on Monday. After a customer called 911, police found Elrod outside another business and warned him to get to the ground, Schmaderer said.

"Elrod repeatedly went into his waistband in a threatening manner," Schmaderer said. Elrod said he had a gun and told officers to shoot him, Schmaderer said. A taser failed to subdue him, he said.

Lugod told Elrod: "Don't make me do this. Don't make me do this. You're going to get shot. Come on. Come on," Schmaderer said.

Elrod climbed onto a car hood next to a chain link fence, and turned toward two other officers with his back to Lugod when the shooting occurred. He appeared ready to leap over the fence when Lugod fired, hitting Elrod twice in the back, Schmaderer said.

Schmaderer said the shooting was caught on video but was not being released pending the grand jury investigation.

"Officer Lugod made a split-second decision when he shot his service weapon at Elrod," he said. "The question is at the moment in time that Officer Lugod discharged his service weapon at Elrod, was he an imminent threat."

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said Nebraska law permitted the use of force if an officer had a reasonable basis to believe it was necessary to protect against serious bodily injury.

Lugod has been placed on paid administrative leave, Schmaderer said. Lugod was also involved in a fatal 2012 police shooting but was cleared of wrongdoing by a grand jury, Schmaderer said.

(Reporting by Kevin Murphy in Kansas City, Mo.; Editing by Peter Cooney)