The man fatally shot by Omaha police officers early Sunday was a two-time felon and a gang member who had been released on a furlough from the Nebraska Department of Corrections.
Jermaine Lucas, 29, was sentenced in 2010 to five to eight years in prison for being a felon in possession of a gun. This was the 11th time he had been in jail or prison.
He has been housed at the Community Corrections Center-Lincoln, but was away from the center on a 48-hour furlough, state prison officials said.
Since Friday, he had been staying with a relative who was his sponsor, said Robert Houston, director of the Nebraska Department of Corrections. He declined to name the relative.
About 2:30 a.m. Sunday, Officers Alvin Lugod and Joseph Koenig turned their cruiser east onto Pratt Street after hearing gunshots in the area.
They saw a man — Lucas, they later learned — running “toward them with his hands around his waistband,” Chief Todd Schmaderer said at a Sunday press conference.
The officers, both four-year members of the force, heard more gunfire and saw muzzle flashes about a half-block east, followed by a car backing up the street and into a driveway.
Lucas tried to get into the car, but it drove off before he could, Schmaderer said. Lucas crouched down, and a 9 mm Beretta pistol fell to the ground about 3 feet from him.
“The officers repeatedly yelled for (Lucas) not to move, but he lunged for his weapon, and both officers, in fear for their lives and their partner’s life, fired multiple times,” Schmaderer said. “The whole sequence took 31 seconds.”
Lucas died at the scene of multiple gunshot wounds, the chief said.
Schmaderer identified Lucas as a gang member. Police have previously said he was a 29th Street Blood.
An autopsy was expected to be performed today to determine whether all his wounds were caused by the officers. Police also will conduct a ballistics test to see whether the gun recovered next to Lucas had recently been fired.
Schmaderer said several vehicles and buildings in the area were struck by gunfire, but no other victims had been located.
Houston said Lucas had been on furlough 10 times previously. Furloughs can last from eight to 72 hours. They are unsupervised except for a sponsor, who has instructions about what to do if an inmate doesn’t cooperate.
Houston said a staff member did random checks on Lucas, calling him at the sponsor’s home at 12:45 a.m. Sunday and again at 12:53 a.m., about an hour and a half before the shooting. The two spoke, and as far as the staffer knew, everything was fine, Houston said.
“At any one time, we’ve got an average of 580 inmates in community residential living, and the vast majority have furloughs available to them,” he said. “The vast majority of these furloughs are also successful.”
Rewarding inmates’ good behavior with furloughs is an important step in inmates’ rehabilitation because it allows them to begin re-establishing ties to the community, he said.
“In this case it didn’t work,” Houston said. “We feel badly for the Omaha police officers that had to take this action, and we also feel badly for the Lucas family and their loss.”
The inmates at Nebraska’s community corrections centers in Lincoln and Omaha are allowed to be employed in the community and return to the center after work.
Lucas’ death will be investigated by a grand jury, which is required for in-custody deaths under state law. The Police Department’s officer-involved-shooting squad also is investigating the incident.
Lucas had a long arrest record. He had been convicted of crimes in 19 separate incidents and had been incarcerated 11 times.
In the latest case, Lucas was arrested in June 2010 for being a felon in possession of a firearm.
According to prosecutors, Omaha police officers had received a tip that members of the 29th Street Bloods had gathered near 30th Street and Arcadia Avenue.
When officers arrived, Lucas and two other men tried to drive away but backed into a police sport utility vehicle.
Lucas ran but was caught by officers. He had a loaded Colt .45 with a round in the chamber and a clip in his back pocket containing seven rounds. The serial number had been filed off, police said.
Lucas pleaded guilty later that year. He would have first been eligible for release in May 2014.
In 2006, Lucas pleaded guilty to receiving stolen property worth more than $1,500, a felony.
He is also suspected of being involved with a homicide that year.
Lucas and another alleged 29th Street Bloods member, Jimmy Levering, were charged in 2007 in connection with the fatal shooting of Kenny Miller, 24, outside a convenience store at 24th Street and Redick Avenue.
Levering was charged as the shooter, and Lucas was accused of driving him from the scene.
Prosecutors said charges against both men were dropped after witnesses, fearing retaliation, refused to testify.
In 2010, Levering was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for being a felon in possession of ammunition after police found him with two .45-caliber bullets during a Jan. 29 traffic stop. He died in May 2011 after being shot in the head outside the Club Seville at 30th and Pratt Streets, just a block away from where Lucas died.
Lucas has been shot at least twice in the past, most recently in January 2010, when he was walking in the area of Fontenelle Boulevard and Laurel Avenue. Police said Lucas would not cooperate in that investigation.
Anyone with information about Sunday’s shooting is asked to call the homicide unit at 402-444-5656.
World-Herald staff writer Maggie O’Brien contributed to this report.>/b>
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