Danny Elrod and his wife, Amanda, hoped to make a fresh start in Omaha. But things started to spiral downward soon after the couple moved here from Tennessee last September.
That all culminated Monday night, when Elrod, who reportedly had a history of mental illness, drug abuse and suicidal thoughts, told police, “Shoot me, shoot me.”
Not listening to officers’ commands during a brief confrontation, Elrod turned away from Omaha Police Officer Alvin Lugod, reportedly faced two other officers and started to jump over a fence. Lugod fired three times and hit Elrod twice in the back, killing him.
It was the second time Lugod had encountered Elrod in five weeks.
Now a widow, Amanda Elrod, 26, is questioning the police officer’s actions during the 98-second interaction with her husband.
“I think they ought to feel ashamed of themselves that they only spent a minute and 38 on my husband,” she said Thursday. “They took him from me.”
The couple have a 5-year-old son.
Police Chief Todd Schmaderer on Thursday laid out a timeline of events that began to unfold about 6:30 p.m. Monday. The chief said it did not appear that his officers did anything criminal but stopped short of calling the shooting justified. The shooting will be considered by a grand jury.
Former roommates who saw Elrod 30 minutes before he was killed said Elrod was distraught and crying and had come to say goodbye. He told them he was returning to Tennessee on Tuesday.
“The life had gone out of him,” said Chad Harney, 32.
Elrod, 39, had a lengthy criminal past in Ohio, Iowa and Nebraska. He had been arrested more than 20 times on various charges, including assault and stealing a vehicle. In Ohio, he served two years in prison on an attempted robbery charge.
On Oct. 3, Omaha police were called to the 4700 block of North 15th Street after a report of a suicidal person. When officers arrived, Elrod told them he wanted to kill himself. He said he was off his anxiety medication and pain medicine and was having major family and financial trouble, according to a police report.
He told police he was going to slit his wrists. The officers put him in emergency protective custody.
Just over two months later, on Dec. 13, police went to Immanuel Medical Center. Elrod had been taken there by ambulance after overdosing, according to a police report. He told a paramedic that he had been trying to harm himself. An officer said in the report that he asked Elrod if he was suicidal, and Elrod made “a ‘yes’ motion.” Elrod again was placed in emergency protective custody.
Four days later, on Dec. 16, police responded to a disturbance call at a motel near the Sapp Brothers exit on Interstate 80, said Sarpy County Deputy Prosecutor Gage Cobb. Elrod was accused of causing $50 worth of damage to the motel. He was later charged in Sarpy County with criminal mischief less than $200.
A month later, on Jan. 17, Amanda Elrod called 911 from the 1400 block of South 13th Street. She told the officers who responded that her husband had punched and slapped her in the face, then knocked her to the ground and continued punching and slapping her. She had blood in her mouth and cuts inside her mouth, a police report said.
Lugod, 31, and Officer Bradley Bornhoft, who also was at the scene Monday, arrested Elrod that night. Elrod later pleaded guilty to domestic assault.
He had a Jan. 21 court date in Sarpy County on the criminal mischief charge but didn’t show. A warrant was issued for his arrest.
On Jan. 27, Elrod was charged with first-offense possession of a controlled substance in Pottawattamie County from an incident that occurred a day before. A trial was scheduled for April.
Elrod was picked up Sunday by Omaha police at 30th and Dodge Streets on a Sarpy County warrant, 24 hours before the shooting. He was taken to Sarpy County Jail.
He made statements Sunday that “referenced suicidal thoughts,” Schmaderer said.
Then came Monday.
Elrod was bailed out of the Sarpy County Jail about 2:30 p.m.
About 6:30 p.m., four officers responded to a report of a robbery at Family Dollar at 1725 S. 13th St. Witnesses said the robber had walked north on 13th Street. The officers saw Elrod in the parking lot of the Sports Car Garage at 1461 S. 13th St.
Officers told investigators that Elrod said he had a gun.
Officers shouted “Show me your hands” and “get down on the ground” repeatedly, Schmaderer said at a press conference Thursday. Elrod did not comply.
Schmaderer said the video footage of the shooting captured by police cruisers shows Elrod repeatedly reaching into his waistband in the parking lot.
Lugod shouted, “You are going to get shot.”
Elrod responded, “Shoot me? Shoot me? For what? For what?”
Elrod climbed onto the hood of a BMW. Officers shouted at him to get down on the ground.
Lugod called for a Taser. Elrod said, “Shoot me. Shoot me.”
Officer Nicole Geyza fired a Taser, but it was ineffective and Elrod pulled out its wires, Schmaderer said.
Elrod, still standing on the hood of the car, then turned away from Lugod, toward other officers, put his hands on the barbed wires above a chain-link fence and leapt, with his right leg coming up.
Schmaderer said Lugod took Elrod’s actions and statements as a threat to other officers and fired three times, striking Elrod twice in the back.
“Officer Lugod made a split-second decision when he shot at Elrod,” Schmaderer said.
The entire police encounter with Elrod lasted 98 seconds.
This was Lugod’s second involvement in a fatal shooting in his six years with the Omaha Police Department. In 2012, Lugod and another officer shot and killed Jermaine Lucas after Lucas lunged for a gun.
Lucas was on a 48-hour furlough from prison when Lugod and Officer Joseph Koenig arrived at 30th and Pratt Streets after hearing gunshots. The officers saw Lucas and muzzle flashes. A gun fell to the ground as Lucas knelt down. Officers yelled at Lucas not to move, but he lunged for the gun, and the two officers fired multiple times.
A grand jury cleared Lugod of wrongdoing and no charges were filed in that death.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said Thursday that in the Monday shooting, the main legal concern is whether the circumstances of the shooting — the perceived threat — constituted “a reasonable belief” warranting use of deadly force by Lugod to protect himself and other officers. A grand jury will make that determination.
Schmaderer said: “The question is: At the moment in time that Lugod discharged his service weapon at Elrod, was he an imminent threat?”
Amanda Elrod, who said she saw the confrontation from a nearby house, said she heard her husband yell “I’m unarmed.” She takes issue with the police department’s account and said she saw her husband’s hands up.
“I think they’re full of it,” she said Thursday at a separate press conference. “He said (Elrod) was reaching ... you don’t shoot him then, but you’re going to shoot him when he hops the fence?”
Amanda Elrod and her attorney, James Martin Davis, said that Amanda and two other witnesses had told different versions of the encounter than what police released.
Amanda said her husband had mental health problems. She said that since they had arrived in Omaha, the family had wrecked two cars, she had lost two jobs and Elrod felt like the family was “torn apart,” she said.
Davis said he was concerned that four people had been killed by police in seven months, referring to three shootings.
“Omaha is better than that,” he said. “When police are thrust into these situations that are highly tense, they have to be trained to react, and to react properly.”
A sound equipment operator for the television show “Cops” and a robbery suspect were shot in August at a midtown Wendy’s. In January, a woman was killed after she threatened police with a knife. In the August shooting, Schmaderer said the officers “had no choice.” In the January shooting, Schmaderer said the shooting was “reasonable and appropriate” given the circumstances.
Both of those cases will be reviewed when a grand jury meets on March 9.
Kleine said Thursday that he would try to expedite the toxicology and official autopsy reports so that Elrod’s shooting could be considered by that grand jury.
Former roommate Harney said that after hearing what had happened and knowing what Elrod said to him Monday 30 minutes before the shooting, he thought Elrod had committed suicide by police.
The Elrods rented a basement room from Harney and his fiancée, Christine Wimer. The Elrods lived there from September until the end of October, when Harney said he kicked them after finding hypodermic needles.
Harney and Wimer said the Elrods quarreled frequently over finances.
“The night he was here, he said, ‘(Amanda) doesn’t want nothing to do with me unless I have money,’ ” Wimer said.
On Monday night, Elrod had dropped by, saying he wanted to thank them for their help.
“He said he wanted to make amends with us, and then just broke down in tears,” Harney said.
Amanda was unavailable for comment Thursday night.
Her attorney said he has set up a meeting with police next week so that Amanda can report her account of the shooting.
Davis questions why police haven’t released the cruiser video, instead releasing only two frames from the videos.
“It’s not a full and frank disclosure,” he said.
Schmaderer said during the press conference that the video footage was considered evidence in the investigation and that it would be presented to the grand jury.
He said he had requested that the FBI help enhance the cruisers’ video and audio.
Schmaderer said Lugod will remain on paid administrative leave until the end of the grand jury procedure and the internal affairs investigation.
Davis plans to meet with Kleine to review the evidence.
Amanda Elrod said she is angry that she wasn’t given information about her husband when she rushed to the scene minutes after the shooting.
“(Police) didn’t even take the time to try to console me or sit with me,” she said.
She said is considering a civil lawsuit.
“They took the man that provides for me,” she said Tuesday. “I don’t appreciate you taking my son’s father and my husband and my beloved and my heart and soul.”
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Video: Schmaderer, Kleine discuss officer-involved shooting
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