An Omaha protest against the police killing of a 35-year-old man during a traffic stop plunged into chaos on Friday evening after authorities declared a rally illegal, fired tear gas and arrested at least two people.
On Friday, the Omaha Police Department claimed Kenneth Jones was shot dead during a traffic stop Thursday night when he grabbed a gun in the waist. The event is currently under investigation by the Nebraska State Patrol and the Ohama Police Officer Investigation Team.
This immediately sparked protests outside the central police headquarters, where scores of people demanded transparency and video footage of the tragic incident.
A police spokesperson told the Daily Beast on Saturday that two protesters had been arrested. A 20-year-old woman was charged with destruction of property and disorderly conduct, and a 35-year-old man was arrested for third degree assault on an officer and carrying a concealed knife. Two other women were cited for disorderly conduct and a third for obstructing a peace officer.
“Until [police] to prove that they didn’t murder a black man, we’re not shutting up – not at all, ”protest organizer Peyton Zyla told the Omaha World-Herald. The newspaper reports that two protesters were taken to hospital after being smeared and beaten with a baton.
Authorities said they stopped a car around 7:27 p.m. Thursday. According to a press release, body camera footage shows Jones moving around in the backseat on the passenger side as officers approached the car. Everyone in the car complied with orders to put their hands in front of the car windows except Jones, authorities said.
The press release says an agent then attempted to open Jones’ door, yelling at the 35-year-old to “open the door” before using a flashlight to smash the car window to enter. Officers said Jones continued to disregard their requests and to withdraw.
The one he was out of the car “we hear an officer say,” Keep your hands where I can see them! “The press release said, adding that the officer then said,” Watch his right hand! He digs! He has a gun! He has a gun! “
Authorities say the officer then shouted “Gun! Gun! Gun!” Seconds later, four shots were fired and “Jones fell to the ground and kept moving as the officers shouted at him to ‘show his hands’.”
A .45 caliber Springfield handgun “with bullet in the chamber” was later found under Jones, police said. The 35-year-old was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Authorities have yet to reveal what caused the traffic to stop. While both officers were wearing body cameras at the time, one dislodged during the fight and did not capture the entire event on video.
Witnesses called by police confirmed their account, saying officers gave loud verbal orders and a man was seen grabbing his belt for an object he believed to be a gun. “The witness said he thought the man was going to shoot the police when he saw him turn to them as he searched for his belt,” the press release said.
Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert said on Friday that a grand jury would investigate the shooting and that the two officers involved had been placed on administrative leave. Their names have not been released.
“We would like to extend our condolences to the family and friends of Kenneth Jones and the rest of the community who are affected by this incident,” Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said in a statement. “We are committed to conducting a thorough investigation and providing the public with all the details.”
But the shooting prompted around 50 people to gather near the police headquarters on Friday, project the message, “It’s not transparency. Post footage of Kenneth Jones’ OPD execution on the side of the building. Others sang and holding bright letters which spelled “OPD WHY”.
Around 9 p.m., the authorities declared the protest an illegal gathering, although it is not immediately clear why. According to KETV, police took several protesters into custody soon after – and held them to the ground.
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