Nebraska State Police Capture Suspect Wanted for Attempted Murder of a Fellow Omaha Officer, with Stop Sticks.
May 16, 2022
By: Zach Madden
This story came to us a year after the deployment, but the actions of the officers and State Police involved and the coordinated efforts to capture a man who had shot a fellow officer were so remarkable that we had to share this story.
On March 21 of 2021, Troopers with the Nebraska State Patrol were successful in apprehending a suspect who had shot an Omaha Police officer multiple times just hours prior. Through excellent communications between multiple agencies, precise driving, and the incredible deployment of stop sticks by Trooper John Lewis, The Nebraska State Patrol was able to apprehend the suspect without any further incidents.
On a Friday afternoon, Officer Jeffery Wittstruck of the Omaha Police department was responding to a call at the local mall. Employees at one of the stores had caught a man putting merchandise inside a backpack and were holding the man in the mall’s security office. When Officer Wittstruck arrived on the scene, the suspect started to become non-compliant; refusing to remove his backpack, standing up, and putting his hand in his sweatshirt pocket.
As Officer Wittstruck attempted to place the man under arrest, the suspect became combative, pushing the officer and continuing to fidget in his sweatshirt pocket. After Officer Wittstruck deployed his taser, the man then pulled a gun out of his sweatshirt pocket and fired multiple times at Officer Wittstruck striking him in the face and top of the head.
“Shots Fired, I’m Hit.” Called out on the police radio, another Omaha Officer arrived on the scene to assist and provide first aid to Officer Wittstruck, while several agencies, including the Nebraska State Patrol, set up a perimeter around the mall searching for the suspect – who was spotted fleeing the mall in a vehicle.
An hour later, the suspect’s car was spotted by a Nebraska State Patrol Trooper, who attempted to initiate a traffic stop. That’s when the suspect chose to flee at a high rate of speed. Troopers began pursuing the vehicle as the suspect headed towards the Highway, hitting speeds of 140 MPH surrounded by heavy traffic.
As the suspect continued to flee, still maintaining speeds of 120-140 MPH, NSP Troopers continued their pursuit determined not to let the suspect getaway. As they barreled down the highway, communicating over the radio to relay the suspect’s location and speed, Trooper Lewis took action.
Trooper Lewis had just pulled into his driveway ready to clock out for the day; when the pursuit began heading in his direction. The first thing I think every officer asks themselves when they hear a pursuit is taking place is “Where can I deploy Stop Sticks?”, which is exactly what Trooper Lewis said to himself as he jumped into action, driving to the closest highway entrance to set up his Stop Sticks.
After finding the best possible location that he could use to intercept the rapidly incoming pursuit, Trooper Lewis Deployed his Stop Sticks on the opposite shoulder of the three-lane highway and listened carefully to his radio to hear speed and mile marker call-outs to anticipate his deployment.
Traffic began getting busier and busier; with tractor-trailers and other commuters starting to obstruct Trooper Lewis’ view of the oncoming pursuit. The suspect had been traveling in the far-left lane at a steady rate of 140 MPH as it approached Trooper Lewis’ position. With dead reckoning and skillful calculation, Trooper Lewis pulled his Stop Sticks in front of the suspect’s vehicle while his view was completely obstructed by a passing Semi-Trailer. Trooper Lewis managed to hit both driver-side tires on the suspect’s vehicle without striking any other pursuing Trooper, or any other unintended vehicles in the process.
After coming into contact with Trooper Lewis’ Stop Sticks the suspect took the nearest interstate exit only to have his vehicle disable itself on a nearby railroad track, where he was then taken into custody without any further incident.
Trooper Lewis explained that he felt like it was pure luck that he got the hit; however, his acute attention to the details that were being provided over the radio allowed him to make the best possible decision and judgments regarding when and how to time his deployment. After reviewing the State Patrols’ aerial footage of the event, Trooper Lewis stated that you can see how challenging the deployment was. Just as the suspect’s vehicle approached his location, Trooper Lewis navigated when to pull his Stop Sticks in front of the vehicle all while trying to time it as Semi was driving over the string from his cord reel connected to the Stop Sticks.
The Nebraska State Patrol stated, “if not for the successful deployment of Stop Sticks, the pursuit may have continued westbound on I-80 or potentially entered into a larger populated area of Lincoln. The incredible teamwork led to this critical arrest of a suspect who had just shot a fellow law enforcement officer. Thankfully, Officer Wittstruck has been able to make a full recovery after a year of treatment and rehabilitation, and is now back on the streets serving the people and community of Omaha.”
Trooper Lewis and the Nebraska State Patrol welcomed Officer Wittstruck back and presented him with a placard and the Stop Stick that led to the capture of his assailant, as a sign of solidarity and a reminder that NSP always has the backs of their fellow law enforcement agencies.
We would like to recognize Trooper John Lewis of the Nebraska State Patrol for his incredible deployment which lead to the capture of a dangerous individual and his skillful ability to safely navigate and make a successful deployment under extraordinary circumstances.
Photo Courtesy of Nebraska State Police (Pictured Trooper Lewis Top Left Deploying Stop Sticks.
Story assistance by Cody Thomas Nebraska State Police
Additional Sources KETV: https://www.ketv.com/article/nebraska-state-patrol-honors-omaha-police-officer-jeffrey-wittstruck-who-was-shot-at-westroads-mall/39442958
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