A mall security guard has been arrested on suspicion of making terroristic threats after threatening to shoot at suspected shoplifters fleeing in a vehicle.

The wild chase began, police say, with a small group shoplifting Wednesday night at Oak View Mall. It ended with a Douglas County sheriff’s deputy firing at the shoplifters’ vehicle, possibly because he felt threatened by it.

Omaha police provided this account:

A small group — three or four people — stole items from a department store at Oak View Mall on Wednesday. As they left the area in a minivan, a 26-year-old mall security officer who was off duty, William Budka-Gray, attempted to stop them. Budka-Gray was in street clothes.

Budka-Gray followed them in an SUV, and at one point in the chase, yelled at them to “stop or I’ll shoot you.”

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The occupants of the minivan believed Budka-Gray had a gun and were afraid they would be shot. As Budka-Gray, in his SUV, was pursuing the shoplifters’ minivan, an off-duty Douglas County sheriff’s deputy happened upon the chase. The deputy called 911 to report a white SUV attempting to run a teal minivan off the road. The deputy’s call was made at 10:16 p.m. from West Center Road near 144th Street.

Omaha police got the call and began to respond to a “moving disturbance.”

The vehicles continued through southwest Omaha before the incident came to a head in the general area of 156th Street between Q and S Streets. There, the minivan slowed enough to let three passengers out to run away.

A witness said the minivan accelerated toward a man, later identified as the off-duty deputy. At that point, the off-duty deputy yelled at the minivan to stop. It did not and continued forward, over the median and toward S Street. The deputy fired his gun at the minivan.

There’s no indication that the minivan’s driver was struck by the rounds, according to police.

According to dispatch reports, the deputy put out a “help an officer” call and “shots fired.” That prompted a swift response from law officers around the metro area.

Omaha police set up a perimeter in the general area and were able to apprehend the three males who ran from the vehicle — an adult and two youths. Also responding to the scene were Douglas County sheriff’s deputies and Nebraska State Patrol officers.

Officers also eventually found the minivan and the driver, also a male. Omaha police and the Nebraska State Patrol are investigating the incident. The name of the deputy wasn’t released Thursday evening. Nor was there any information on the people in the van and whether they’ll face any charges, including shoplifting.

Budka-Gray was booked on three counts of making terroristic threats. Investigators did not find a gun on Budka-Gray or in his vehicle.

Neither Oak View Mall nor Budka-Gray could be reached for comment Thursday evening.

Nancy Gaarder helps cover public safety and weather events as an editor on The World-Herald's breaking news desk. Follow her on Twitter @gaarder. Phone: 402-444-1102.

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