The Omaha Police Department cracked open a drug ring Friday night and Saturday morning, arresting six people, shooting another and seizing pounds of methamphetamine, guns and cash.
The man who was shot, Jason M. Welch, 34, was in extremely critical condition at the Nebraska Medical Center, Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said Saturday.
The end of a lengthy drug sales probe began late Friday as police served a search warrant at a house and began to make arrests.
But the case became complicated when narcotics detectives tried to take into custody the final two targets and boxed in their sport utility vehicle in a parking lot.
The driver of the SUV, Jennifer M. Lovings, 35, ignored officers’ orders to get out of the car. She rammed the detectives’ unmarked police vehicles about 10 p.m. in the lot outside a Walgreens drugstore near 51st and Center Streets, Schmaderer said.
The police chief said the detective who fired his gun had left his vehicle after it had been pushed a short distance by the SUV, with Lovings driving and Welch as the passenger. The detective stood between the SUV and his vehicle.
Watch: OPD press conference
The detective feared that Welch had reached toward the floorboard for a gun, Schmaderer said. The detective fired three times into the SUV and struck Welch.
Schmaderer said Lovings sped from the parking lot in the SUV, to which police had previously attached a court-approved GPS tracking device. Police pursued the SUV for a short time. The GPS led them to the vehicle, parked at 48th and W Streets.
Welch remained in the car with severe gunshot wounds, the police chief said, but Lovings had left and remained at large late Saturday. Schmaderer said no gun was found inside the SUV.
He said the arrests and seizure of drugs, weapons and cash were a significant coup.
“We’ve been involved in this investigation for a while,” Schmaderer said at a press conference. “This is a big operation. This is a large arrest in any city.”
Schmaderer declined to name the detective who shot Welch, though he said the officer, who has been on the force for more than 10 years, had not previously shot someone in the line of duty.
He said releasing the detective’s name could put him at risk and jeopardize other investigations.
Schmaderer said the detective would be placed on paid administrative leave — the standard procedure in an officer-involved shooting. If Welch dies, the case will be presented to a grand jury.
Based on the detective’s account, the chief said, the shooting appears justified.
Omaha police officers have shot three other people in the past year.
An officer fatally shot Tyree Bell, who police said was armed with a shotgun, at 3727 N. 42nd St. early on Jan. 1.
An officer shot a man Nov. 28 whom police said was suicidal and refused to drop a knife he was holding. The man, Oliver Halverson, survived the shooting at 122nd and Burt Streets.
Early on Sept. 16, two officers fatally shot Jermaine Lucas, who they said was armed, near 30th and Pratt Streets.
In the latest case, officers found 11 pounds of meth worth $500,000 at 6532 Wirt St., where they served the warrant. They also seized $95,000 in cash, three guns and three bulletproof vests, Schmaderer said.
The six people arrested there were Rachel Galvan, 27; Alexander Studer, 25; Jesus Gomez, 30; Danielle Alberto, 18; Armandoo Gomez, 23; and Marcial Corona, 21.
All were booked on suspicion of criminal conspiracy and possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute it, police said.
Welch has one previous felony conviction. In 2002, he was charged with selling drugs. Studer was convicted of burglary, a felony, in 2009. Jesus Gomez has an unresolved drug sales case filed late last year. The others have misdemeanor criminal histories or have never been charged with a crime in Douglas County.
Police found $7,400 in cash when they backtracked over the SUV’s path to 48th and W Streets, the chief said.
At 4 a.m. Saturday, officers served a search warrant at 4666 Marcy St., which Schmaderer said is Lovings’ residence, and found one stolen gun and 1.8 pounds of meth.
Police requested the public’s help in finding Lovings. People can call the Crime Stoppers line at 402-444-STOP or 911 if they have information on where Lovings is.
Schmaderer said officers aren’t looking for anyone else associated with this drug ring.
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