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Nebraska Furniture Mart employee Jared Clawson was shot in the back on Jan. 11, 2017, while walking into work.

He was just walking to work at the Nebraska Furniture Mart — his daily hike to help provide for his wife and children.

Out of nowhere, Jared Clawson, then 37, was ambushed by a man he didn’t know.

An Omaha man who had researched serial killers Jeffrey Dahmer and Charles Starkweather — Ryan Blaha, 19 — opened fire with a shotgun, pumping at least two rounds into Clawson’s back.

On Monday, Blaha pleaded no contest to first-degree assault and weapon use — and Judge Peter Bataillon found him guilty of both. The Omaha man, now 21, faces six to 100 years in prison when he is sentenced in August.

Blaha had been charged with seven counts, but prosecutors dismissed five of the counts in return for his pleas.

Prosecutor Eric Wells, a deputy Douglas County attorney, said he offered the plea deal with the approval of Clawson.

One of the potential issues the deal helps avoid: any claims by Blaha that he was temporarily insane and unable to discern right from wrong. Blaha had indicated that he would plead not guilty by reason of insanity — based on a defense doctor’s evaluation.

The state would have disputed an insanity claim. But had the judge declared Blaha not guilty by reason of insanity, Blaha would have been sent to the Lincoln Regional Center, and his treatment plan would have come up for review every year.

“We didn’t want to risk putting the victim through that,” Wells said. “He’s been through enough.”

Prosecutors gave this account:

About 4 a.m. Jan. 11, 2017, Clawson was walking to the Nebraska Furniture Mart from an employee parking lot on the business’ campus near 72nd and Jones Street.

A man pulled up in a green SUV and shot Clawson twice in the back — and then stole his wallet.

A day later, Blaha posted a video to Snapchat of himself setting fire to Clawson’s wallet, including his driver’s license, Wells said.

Investigators subsequently searched Blaha’s electronic devices and found that Blaha had researched Dahmer, a Milwaukee man who killed 17 boys and men from 1978 to 1991 and cannibalized some of them. He also had researched Starkweather, a teen who killed 11 people in Nebraska and Wyoming in December 1957 and January 1958.

Blaha’s attorney, Steve Delaney, said his client has bipolar disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. “His mental illness was a major contributing factor in his actions,” Delaney said.

Wells said the plea bargain gives Judge Bataillon plenty of room to work with when it comes to the length of Blaha’s prison term.

Shotgun pellets spread throughout Clawson’s back — and he had to have multiple lifesaving surgeries.

The shooting had its effect on other employees as well, Wells said. A supervisor told prosecutors that some employees expressed fear that they, too, would be targeted as they walked into work.

Eighteen months later, Clawson is unable to work — and has more surgeries planned to deal with the shrapnel and scar tissue, Wells said.

“I can’t even imagine what he’s been through,” Wells said. “This is a guy who was walking to work, trying to support his family, just like you and I, and out of nowhere, this happens.

“It’s changed his life forever.”

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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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