Stop Stick® 2021 Hit of the Year Award goes to the Nebraska State Patrol, Trooper John Lewis’ Stop Stick® deployment led to the capture of a man wanted for the shooting of Officer Jeffery Wittstruck of the Omaha Police Department.
Trooper John Lewis of the Nebraska State Patrol was named 2021 Stop Stick Hit of the Year, Hit King; as his deployment of Stop Stick® led to the direct capture of a dangerous individual wanted for the shooting of another officer. Trooper Lewis was named this year's award recipient, due to the logistical challenge of the deployment and the danger the suspect posed to the general public.
When the officer arrived, that’s when the suspect became non-compliant.
On March 21 of 2021, Troopers with the Nebraska State Patrol engaged in the pursuit of a suspect that had hours prior resisted arrest and shot an officer of the Omaha Police Department.
On the Friday afternoon of March 21, 2021, 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 placing merchandise inside a backpack and were holding the man in the mall’s security office.
Officer Wittstruck would arrive at the mall shortly after receiving a call from the mall's security; and that’s when the suspect started to become non-compliant, refusing to remove his backpack and fidgeting with something in his sweatshirt pocket.
Officer Wittstruck attempted to place the suspect under arrest to take control of the situation, but the man refused to listen. The suspect then began pushing Officer Wittstruck away refusing to be detained and continuing to place his hands inside his sweatshirt pocket. Left with no other option to de-escalate the situation 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”
“Shots Fired, I’m Hit.” Called out on the police radio, another Omaha Officer not far from the scene arrived to assist and provide first aid to Officer Wittstruck. However, by the time he arrived, the suspect had already made his getaway.
Security camera footage helped identify the suspect's getaway vehicle as it left the mall parking lot. Several other local agencies, including the Nebraska State Patrol, set up a perimeter around the mall and surrounding areas, searching for the suspect.
Just an hour later, the suspect’s car was spotted by a Nebraska State Patrol Trooper at a local gas station. The Trooper attempted to initiate a traffic stop as the suspect was leaving the gas station. Upon seeing the trooper’s flashing lights in his rear mirror, the suspect began to flee at a high rate of speed causing the State Patrol to begin the pursuit. The suspect headed towards the Highway, hitting speeds of 140 MPH surrounded by heavy traffic.
Nebraska State Patrol were determined to not let the suspect get away.
The suspect maintained speeds of 120-140 MPH on the highway, weaving in and out of the busy roadway. The Nebraska State Patrol Troopers refused to let the suspect get away, maintaining a heavy presence on the roadway and waiting for the right time to present itself to bring the pursuit to an end.
As they barreled down the highway, Troopers communicated over the radio relaying the suspect’s location and speed at designated mile markers.
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 pulled back out of his driveway, making his way to the closest highway entrance to set up his Stop Sticks.
After determining the best location that he could use to safely 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 the pursuing trooper's location call-outs to anticipate his deployment.
Traffic began getting busier and obstructed Trooper Lewis’ view of the oncoming pursuit.
As the pursuit continued, 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 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 disable his vehicle on a nearby railroad track. The pursuing State Troopers surrounded the suspect’s vehicle, and the pursuit was brought to a safe conclusion; with the suspect being taken into custody without any further incident.
Trooper Lewis explained that he felt like it was pure luck that he was able to make a successful 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 a 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 recently welcomed Officer Wittstruck back to the force 1 year after recovering from his injuries.
Trooper Lewis and the Nebraska State Patrol recently welcomed Officer Wittstruck back, presenting him with a placard; as well as the Stop Stick that led to the capture of his assailant as a sign of solidarity and a reminder that Nebraska State Patrol always has the backs of their fellow law enforcement agencies.
We honor Trooper John Lewis as the official “Hit King” for 2021 for his quick thinking and remarkable deployment of Stop Stick®.
Photo Curtesy of Nebraska State Patrol (Pictured Trooper Lewis Top Left Deploying Stop Sticks.Story assistance by Cody Thomas Nebraska State Patrol
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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