An Omaha protest over the police killing of a 35-year-old during a traffic stop devolved into chaos on Friday night after authorities declared an unlawful assembly, deployed tear gas, and arrested at least two people.
The Omaha Police Department on Friday claimed Kenneth Jones was shot dead during a traffic stop Thursday night when he reached for a gun in his waistband. The event is now under investigation by the Nebraska State Patrol and the Omaha Police Officer-Involved Investigations Team.
It immediately sparked protests outside the Central Police Headquarters, where dozens demanded transparency and the video footage of the tragic incident.
A police spokesperson told The Daily Beast on Saturday that two protesters were arrested. A 20-year-old woman was accused of destruction of property and disorderly conduct charge 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] prove that they didn’t murder a Black man, we’re not shutting up—not one bit,” protest organizer Peyton Zyla told the Omaha World-Herald. The newspaper reported two protesters were taken to the hospital after being maced and struck with a baton.
Authorities said that pulled a car over at around 7:27 p.m. on Thursday. A press release said that 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 outside the car windows except for Jones, authorities said.
The press release said that one officer then tried to open Jones’ door, yelling at the 35-year-old to “open the door” before using a flashlight to break the car window to gain entry. Officers said that Jones continued to disregard their demands and continued to pull away.
One he was out of the car “an officer is heard saying, ‘keep your hands where I can see them!’” the press release said, adding that the officer then said, "Watch his right hand! He's digging! He's digging! He's got a gun! He's got a gun!"
Authorities say the officer then yelled "Gun! Gun! Gun!" Seconds later, four shots were fired and “Jones fell to the ground and continued moving as the officers yelled for him to ‘show his hands.’”
A Springfield .45-caliber handgun “with a round in the chamber” was later found underneath Jones, police said. The 35-year-old was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Authorities have not yet revealed what prompted the traffic stop. While both officers were wearing body cameras at the time, one of them became dislodged during the struggle and didn’t capture the entire event on video.
Witnesses cited by the police confirmed their account, stating that officers gave loud verbal commands and one saw a man reach for his waistband for an object he believed to be a gun. “The witness said he thought the male was going to shoot the officers when he saw him turn towards them as he reached for his waistband,” the press release stated.
Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert on Friday stressed that a grand jury will investigate the shooting and that the two officers involved had been put on administrative leave. Their names haven’t been released.
“We would like to express our condolences to the family and friends of Kenneth Jones and the rest of the community that 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 complete details.”
But the shooting spurred about 50 people to gather near the police headquarters on Friday, projecting the message, “This isn’t transparency. Release the footage of the OPD execution of Kenneth Jones” on the side of the building. Others were chanting and holding up light-up letters that spelled “OPD WHY.”
At around 9 p.m., authorities declared the protest an unlawful assembly, though it wasn’t immediately clear why. According to KETV, police took several protesters into custody soon after—and held them on the ground.