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National Latino group calls for federal investigation of fatal Omaha shooting by off-duty police

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National Latino group calls for federal investigation of fatal Omaha shooting by off-duty police

Feb 08, 2024 | 9:36 pm ET
By Paul Hammel
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National Latino group calls for federal investigation of fatal Omaha shooting by off-duty police
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Screenshot from a YouTube video posted by the Omaha Police Department of the nightclub parking lot where events that proceeded a deadly shooting occurred Saturday morning. (Courtesy of the Omaha Police Department)

LINCOLN — A national Latino rights group called Thursday for a federal investigation into the weekend shooting of two Hispanic men by off-duty Omaha police officers.

Fernando Rodriguez-Juarez and Jonathan Hernandez-Rosales were killed in a volley of 21 gunshots fired by two off-duty police officers working security at a South Omaha nightclub early Saturday morning.

Omaha Police Department officials said the officers had no choice but to respond after being fired upon.

‘Accountability and transparency’

Officials with the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), in a press release, demanded greater “accountability and transparency” of what occurred and expressed disgust that the two men’s immigration status and police records were shared publicly.

“The Omaha Police Department’s blatant attempt to vilify the character of the deceased Latinos is an affront to justice,” said Elsa Aranda, Nebraska LULAC state director.

An external federal inquiry by the Department of Justice is required, Aranda said, “to ensure that the truth prevails, rather than accepting a pre-packaged narrative that conveniently absolves those responsible.”

Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer and Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert held a press conference Thursday in which they presented a 17-minute YouTube video describing the events of Saturday morning.

Began with physical altercation

The events began after a physical altercation outside the Extasis Nightclub as patrons were leaving at closing time.

In a video of the press conference posted by the Omaha World-Herald, Schmaderer said the off-duty officers “were forced into action” after one of the men, who was sitting in the driver’s seat of a car, identified as Rodriguez-Juarez, reached over his passenger and fired a shot at the officers and a group of people walking through a parking lot.

The off-duty officers then opened fire.

Schmaderer said the shooting was within department policy, “though the outcome was not at all what we wanted because we now know the passenger (identified as Hernandez-Rosales) did not have a gun.”

“The officer had to react to the gunshot,” the police chief said, adding that the two officers had to assume that Hernandez-Rosales was also armed.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine determined Thursday that the shooting was legally “justified” and said the two officers will face no charges.

Joe Henry, LULAC political director for the Midwest region, said the organization wants its grievances addressed before Omaha officials “hastily” conclude their investigation.

The two officers involved in the shooting have been identified as Capt. Jay Leavitt, a 25-year veteran, and Officer Robert Soldo, who has been with the police department for 8½ years.