The Omaha assault suspect shown on a video being kicked while subdued by Omaha police officers says the officers involved shouldn't lose their jobs, but more officers should be disciplined for not stepping in.
Robert A. Wagner, 35, was in court Tuesday for a scheduled pretrial hearing, which was delayed. He faces a charge of third-degree assault on an officer that his lawyer says is likely to be dropped, though Douglas County prosecutors disagree.
After the hearing was delayed, Wagner said police command staff at the scene didn't step in to protect him and should have. But, he said, the two officers the city has moved to fire should not lose their livelihoods. A suspension and extra training would be punishment enough, he said.
“It was an unfortunate situation that got out of control,” Wagner said. “I'm not against the Police Department. I have several friends who are officers.
“This has never been about thinking the police are wrong. They make mistakes.”
Wagner is accused of punching an officer in the head after he was ordered to leave Creighton University Medical Center, where he had gone after the fatal shooting of his cousin, Jimmy Levering.
Security camera footage of the officers forcefully taking Wagner down in the hospital parking lot stirred controversy and renewed calls for a public safety auditor. At one point in the approximately five-minute clip, an officer is seen kicking Wagner repeatedly while several others have him pinned on the ground. Officers also used a Taser to subdue Wagner.
Police Chief Alex Hayes has recommended that two officers, Jackie Dolinsky and Aaron Pennington, be fired. The City of Omaha's Human Resources Director Richard O'Gara supports Hayes' recommendation, opening the way for Hayes to issue a final decision in the matter.
Both officers will receive written notice of Hayes' decision. If fired, they would have the option of appealing to an independent arbitrator or the city's personnel board.
At the court appearance, Wagner's attorney, J. William Gallup, told his client the charges “will be dismissed.”
That left Wagner feeling a little better about his situation.
Gallup said later he doesn't believe Wagner hit an officer, because there was no video of that happening. He discounted the possibility that Wagner had struck an officer before the recording began.
“Their position is completely destroyed by the tape,” he said.
County Attorney Don Kleine, however, said, “We plan on moving forward and have no intention of dismissing the case.”
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