The video of the shooting was one snapshot of America.

The dashcam of a trailing vehicle captured, albeit distantly, the scene at 60th and L Streets as James Womack descended from the cab of his semitrailer truck, walked across two lanes to the passenger side of a gold pickup truck and confronted the driver who had cut him off.

Faintly, viewers could see him press his palms on the passenger-side window and hear him say words to the effect of “What the (expletive) are you doing?”

He walked back to his truck and started to step onto the ladder to climb into the cab.

Shots rang out from the gold pickup.

Ten seconds of road rage. Two bullets to the back. One man dead.

And Tuesday, a different set of numbers: the gunman, Michael Benson, sentenced to 67 to 89 years in prison for second-degree murder, two weapons counts and two counts of tampering with witnesses.

Under state law, the 26-year-old Omaha native will serve 37½ years before he is eligible for parole. Absent parole, he will be 74 years old before he is released.

Womack’s widow, Ivonne, wanted Benson to get life. She also wants her husband back.

She recalled how people would light up and call out “James!” when he walked into a gathering. In their zest, they then clearly would forget Ivonne’s name.

“It was like ‘James! ... And, uh, um, James’ wife,’ ” she said. “He had this larger-than-life personality.

“He was not just my husband. He was my best friend and the love of my life ... he would do anything for the people he loved.”

Ivonne Womack then talked about another number: 390 million. The estimate of how many guns are in America. The vast majority of them, she said, no doubt belong to law-abiding Americans. But she can’t help but believe that that proliferation of guns made it easy for Benson to get his hands on one, illegally, just two months removed from being paroled.

“It’s ridiculous,” she said. “There’s people who use guns for protection. And there’s people like this guy who use them so they can feel invincible.”

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The case also was a portrait of two black men whose lives had gone in different directions.

James Womack, 32, grew up in New York City, joined the Army, served three tours in Iraq. He followed his wife’s family, devout churchgoers, and began absorbing theology.

Womack and his wife moved across the country, eventually ending up in Washington state. After he retired from the Army, he called a friend who told him about the great schools and great pace of Omaha.

James and Ivonne decided to move their family, including three young children, to Omaha. Womack got a job driving trucks for Hill Brothers. He often worked six days a week.

“He enjoyed every single day of his life,” Ivonne Womack said. “He loved providing for his family. He always tried to make our children feel special.”

Michael Benson grew up in Omaha, without a father in his life and with a mother who couldn’t keep up, said Beau Finley, his court-appointed attorney. Benson ended up in foster care. By age 13, he was abusing marijuana and skipping school. By 15, he simply stopped going to school altogether. By 16, the State of Nebraska allowed him to declare himself an emancipated adult.

Finley noted that he has handled dozens of juvenile court cases in more than two decades of practicing law.

“To think that a 16-year-old can figure things out on his own?” Finley said. “He couldn’t. He went further and further down a path that he ought not to have gone down.”

By 19, he was on his way to prison for dealing crack cocaine.

He spent five years in a Nebraska prison before he was paroled in January 2017. Six months later, the state released him from parole. Two months after that, he and Womack crossed paths.

The chaos of that scene, captured on that dashcam video, mirrored the trauma that Womack’s family has experienced in the 20 months since. The confusion. The desperation.

Which brings us to the most crushing number in this case: 8. That’s how old James and Ivonne Womack’s daughter Jasmine turned the day her father died. The family, including Jasmine’s sister, Jaleesa, and brother, James Jr., had gone out to breakfast that morning to celebrate. It was a day off from school, and they thought about going shopping. But James suggested that they just go home and hang out.

So they did, lounging and playing and climbing on Dad until he went to work for his evening shift, about 3:30 p.m.

Now Jasmine’s birthday is forever associated with her father’s death. Ivonne said she and her children have chosen to stay in Omaha because this is home, and this is where their life as a family really began. She said she and the children have benefited greatly from therapy.

One of the things Jasmine has had to overcome: the gnawing, childlike thought that the shooting was somehow her fault.

“It’s been hard because my daughter thought that it was her fault that her dad died,” Ivonne Womack said. “She felt that she should have told Daddy to just stay home and miss work.”

Reporter - Courts

Todd Cooper covers courts, lawyers, trials, legal issues, the justice system and government wrongdoing for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @CooperonCourts. Phone: 402-444-1275.

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