Thursday, May 28, 2015

Why does the national media refuse to cover stories like this about good cops?


Police Officer Kerrie Orozco was the first female police officer killed in the line of duty in Omaha.

As a former news reporter for the Omaha World Herald and a former member of the staff for the Mayor of Omaha, there are some stories that are difficult to absorb, especially when they hit so close to home.

On May 22 of this year a 30 year old woman, baseball coach for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Omaha, wife, mother of three, and one who was dedicated to helping her community, was murdered.  She was also a 7 year veteran of the Omaha Police department.

Police Officer Kerrie Orozco was the first female police officer killed in the line of duty in Omaha. She is the 51st Police Officer killed in the line of duty in 2015.  There were 133 officers killed in 2014 and 119 in 2013.

I can remember 45 years ago this year when I was on the staff of Mayor Gene Leahy, and we had a police officer, Larry Minard, murdered by a suitcase bomb planted by the Black Panthers.  This came after years of racial unrest.  Minard, who left behind five children, was buried on the day of his 30th birthday.

Recently the police nationwide have had a lot of bad press as the media chooses to highlight the few bad cop incidents and ignore all the good cop stories.  My old newspaper has tried to focus on the positive when it came to Officer Orozco and I am publishing their coverage in order to honor her, and the work of the vast majority of police protecting our land.

Omaha World Herald
A month ago, Omaha Police Officer Kerrie Orozco was proud of the weight her premature daughter had gained.

“She’s pretty close to 6 lbs!” Orozco wrote on Facebook, underneath photos of her two stepchildren holding baby Olivia Ruth.

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Orozco had been looking forward to today — the day when she could take Olivia home after three months in the neonatal intensive care unit.

But she didn’t make it.

Orozco, 29, was killed Wednesday, her last day of police duty before taking the rest of her maternity leave to spend with her first-born child.

Gunfire erupted when Orozco and other officers attempted to arrest Marcus D. Wheeler, on a felony warrant for first-degree assault about 1 p.m.

Orozco, who was part of the gang unit, is the first female police officer in the department to die in the line of duty. She is the 25th Omaha officer killed on duty overall and the first since 2003.
Wheeler, 26, also died of injuries from the shooting near 30th Street and Martin Avenue. Wheeler was a convicted felon and a known gang member, police said.

Police are planning a 4:30 p.m. Wednesday press conference to provide more information on the shootings.

In a press conference late Wednesday afternoon, Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said Orozco, who was a seven-year-veteran, dedicated her life to service.

“This is a somber day for the city of Omaha,” Schmaderer said. “Officer Orozco was a top-notch individual, and the city of Omaha owes her a debt of gratitude, and her family, like no other.”
Schmaderer laid out a basic timeline of events:

At 12:58 p.m., Orozco and other members of the Metro Area Fugitive Task Force were near Martin Avenue and Read Street, looking for Wheeler, when they spotted him about a block away, near 31st Avenue and Vane Street.

Wheeler shot at officers, then ran north through a wooded area toward the backyard of a house at 3057 Martin Ave.

Orozco, another officer and a sergeant confronted Wheeler, and shots were exchanged.

Orozco collapsed.

While officers rendered first aid to Orozco, Wheeler ran east and collapsed in the backyard at 3042 Read St. A semiautomatic handgun with a drum magazine was found near him.
A man living at the Read Street house said he saw Wheeler lean against a downspout and fall to the ground. He said Wheeler was pointing at his chest, where he had been shot.

Officers performed CPR on Orozco and Wheeler, Schmaderer said.

"It was really sad," Valentine said, "really heart-wrenching, watching the officer."

Both Orozco and Wheeler were taken by ambulance to Creighton University Medical Center in extremely critical condition. They were pronounced dead at the hospital.

Angela Valentine, who lives just east of 3057 Martin Ave., was taking a nap Wednesday afternoon when her son walked in and said, "I think I heard shooting." Valentine then heard what she thought were police outside the house say, "Get down! Get down on the ground!" The officers were yelling toward the back of the neighbor's house.

Valentine then heard two shots, then many shots.

She looked outside and saw a female police officer on the ground near the corner of her house. "There was blood on her pants and the upper part of her body," Valentine said. Other officers were trying to keep the officer calm, she said, and were "going into CPR mode."

Following the news of Orozco’s death, condolences began pouring into social media from across the nation. Hundreds of people, including law enforcement officers and police departments, posted comments, many containing the hashtag #SupportBlue.

Crime scene tape remained around 3057 Martin Ave. on Thursday morning. The Omaha Police Department's mobile command center was parked directly in front of the house, and the crime lab van also was parked in front of the command center. Eastbound Martin Avenue was blocked from Vane Street to Read Street.

After looking at a photo of Wheeler on Thursday, a neighbor said, "I've absolutely seen him hanging around, kicking it in the driveway. I've seen him coming and going, but not causing any trouble. Of course, if you're laying low, you wouldn't want to cause any trouble."

He said he recently started seeing people coming and going, mostly at night.

Orozco was the second female law enforcement officer in the state to be killed in the line of duty, according to the Nebraska Law Enforcement Memorial. Amanda Baker, a Scotts Bluff County corrections officer, was strangled in February 2014 by a 15-year-old inmate at the Scotts Bluff County Detention Center.

Schmaderer said he had spoken with Orozco’s family. At the press conference he also offered condolences to Wheeler’s family.

Mayor Jean Stothert, who was out of town for her son’s wedding, said in a statement:
“Officer Orozco will be honored by the entire community for her service and bravery through our prayer and our continued community support for all police officers.”

Stothert ordered flags in the city to be lowered to half staff in Orozco’s honor until dusk on Monday. In addition, the lights on the Heartland of America Fountain and the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge will be blue through Memorial Day.

After the shooting, more than 20 bystanders gathered at the crime scene, which spanned 30th to 33rd Streets and from Read to Whitmore Streets.

Outside 3057 Martin Ave., where gunfire had been exchanged, police were talking to Erica Coppage-Williams. She had recently moved into the house, said her father, Anthony Williams.
Coppage-Williams, 24, appeared distraught as she sat in her front yard. She let out tearful screams and called out to her father while talking to police.

Wheeler and Coppage-Williams had a child in 2009, court records show.

Coppage-Williams was booked by Omaha police Wednesday night on suspicion of obstructing a peace officer, aiding consummation of a felony and disorderly conduct.

Authorities had been searching for Wheeler in connection with the Sept. 5 shooting of Antonio Martin near 60th Street and Curtis Avenue. Wheeler was released from federal prison in February 2014 after being convicted of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.

Schmaderer called Wheeler “a very dangerous individual” and said the community needs brave individuals to apprehend such serious criminals. Orozco and the Metro Area Fugitive Task Force officers go after “the worst of the worst,” he said.

Orozco returned to work shortly after giving birth to Olivia on Feb. 17. With Olivia facing an extended stay in the NICU at the Nebraska Medical Center, Orozco wanted to save her maternity leave for when Olivia left the hospital.

Before she had her own child, Orozco served as a mother and a mentor to other children, coaching baseball and volunteering with numerous community organizations.

She was a stepmother to Natalia, 8, and Santiago, 6, children of her husband, Hector Orozco Lopez. They were married in a civil ceremony in 2011, then had a church wedding in 2012.

The Police Department was collecting food donations for Orozco’s family. By 10 p.m., so much food had been dropped off at precinct stations that the department was suggesting that any additional donations be taken to homeless shelters in memory of the officer.

The Omaha Police Foundation announced Wednesday night that it would give all of its Omaha Gives donations to the Orozco family.

The donation total has topped $75,000, from more than 1,800 donors, the most of any nonprofit in the campaign.

Asked at the press conference whether the shooting would damage police-community relations, Schmaderer rejected the idea. Officers are also a part of the community, he pointed out.

“I think you’ll see the city of Omaha band together ... and certainly support Officer Orozco for her sacrifice,” he said.

“I think Omaha is a tremendous community. I’ve said all along that north Omaha (is a) tremendous community,” he said. “And we’re going to work through this issue with the community side by side.”

Many details about the shooting haven’t been released. A press conference may be held later today, officials said.

“My greatest concern is with my officers and their families and the integrity of this investigation,” Schmaderer said.

By Wednesday night, flowers, candles and other tokens were being left as makeshift memorials at the crime scene and outside Omaha Police Headquarters.

The chief had a message for his officers, who were struggling with the loss of their well-liked colleague.

“Keep your head held high, we’ll do our job professionally, and we’re going to grieve,” Schmaderer said. “We’ll grieve like anybody else.”

World-Herald staff writers Kevin Cole, Christopher Burbach, Bob Glissmann and Emerson Clarridge contributed to this report.

Here is an update from an Omaha TV station. 

OMAHA, Nebraska (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Thousands of community members lined the streets of Omaha, Nebraska Tuesday to pay tribute to a fallen officer.
Hundreds of officers took Kerrie Orozco to her final resting place in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Officer Orozco was killed in a shoot-out earlier this month while trying to arrest a known gang member.
The shift she was working was supposed to be her last before going on maternity leave to take care of her daughter Olivia, who was born prematurely in February.
And Speaking of little Olivia, she's already living out her mother's legacy. On Sunday she was in a onesie that read "Keep Calm and Kerrie On."

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