Support poured in Saturday for a family that lost two brothers in a violent standoff a day earlier, as sheriff’s deputies were trying to figure out why it happened.
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office has identified two men killed Friday as they tried to help their sister move out of her former boyfriend’s house. They are Jason Edwards, 41, and his brother John Edwards, 35, both of Papillion.
The Edwards brothers were fatally shot as they were helping their sister, Julie Edwards, 42, move out of the home of Kenneth Clark, 45.
Friday was John Edwards’ 35th birthday. Both men leave behind wives and children, according to family friends.
“Two men were killed inside the house that night,” Jessica Miner wrote on a GoFundMe page set up to solicit donations for their families. “Both of them brothers trying to help and protect their sister.”
It is unclear what prompted Julie Edwards to move out or why the couple broke up.
If someone is leaving an abusive relationship, experts say, violence can escalate.
Clark held Julie Edwards hostage for several hours, according to the Sheriff’s Office. After he released her Friday afternoon he continued to have a standoff with law enforcement until the evening, when he died of what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The Sheriff’s Office released more details about the 11-hour standoff Saturday, including the fact that deputies didn’t arrive at Clark’s house until nearly 40 minutes after a 911 call because the call center originally sent them to the wrong place.
The Sheriff’s Office offered these details about the standoff:
Julie Edwards had made arrangements to move her things out of Clark’s home, where she had lived.
Clark was at the northwest Omaha house when she arrived with her brothers and a U-Haul truck.
A person believed to be John Edwards called 911 around 10:20 a.m.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, the original cellphone call led deputies to 150th and Blondo Streets, more than a mile from Clark’s home at 2511 N. 140th St. The 911 call center “eventually” determined that the call had come from near Clark’s home, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Authorities believe Clark shot Jason and John Edwards as they finished loading the truck. A press release from the Sheriff’s Office does not say what time that was.
Clark then took Julie Edwards hostage, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Law enforcement officers arrived at the home just before 11 a.m.
“And a standoff began,” said the press release.
Clark released Julie Edwards around 1:40 p.m.
The standoff ended around 10 p.m., when the Sheriff’s Office’s tactical team released tear gas into the home in an attempt to bring Clark out.
They soon heard a gunshot.
An Omaha police robot found Clark dead in an upstairs bedroom.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said a grand jury will investigate Clark’s death.
Under state law, a grand jury is convened to investigate a case any time a person dies in jail, while in custody or while law enforcement is trying to arrest the person.
Autopsies are scheduled for Sunday.
By Saturday, fundraising accounts had been set up for the families of each of the brothers.
John Edwards’ page, gofundme.com/v269x8rg, was set up by family friend Miner.
“This was something unexpected, a tragedy,” she wrote. “A little piece of heaven left our earth last night.”
John Edwards’ survivors include wife Jenni, a son and two stepsons, according to the page.
“John Edwards was the type of person who always smiled,” Miner wrote. “With his goofy sense of humor you were filled with laughter. He was a genuine person with a huge heart.”
Jason’s survivors include wife Tonya and two daughters. On another page, gofundme.com/324n2yhw, TJ Griggeriski wrote: “They were a wonderful family and will need all the support we can give.”
Edwards family members said they did not want to be interviewed Saturday.
Funeral services for the two brothers were scheduled for this week. The family will receive friends from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at St. Columbkille Catholic Church, with a vigil service at 7:30 at the church. A burial Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Columbkille.
The family suggested that, in lieu of flowers, memorials be sent to the Edwards Kids’ Fund at any Bank of the West branch or at any First Nebraska Educators Credit Union location.
Meanwhile, Chief Deputy Tom Wheeler said investigators are still trying to learn about Clark.
“We’re just now investigating and figuring out why this happened,” Wheeler said.
He noted that a woman took out a protection order against Clark in 2004.
One neighbor remembered Clark as the “creepy guy.”
Susan Williams said sometimes when her kids would walk past his house, he would be sitting on the front porch, shirtless, and ask them to come over.
“We always stayed away from him,” Williams said.
Another neighbor, though, remembered Clark as a friendly guy.
Janne Ward, who lives just across the street from Clark’s house, said Clark was a good neighbor. Ward said Clark helped remove termites from her house at one point. Ward also said she and Clark often exchanged gardening tips.
“He always worked on his garden on the side of his house,” she said. “I thought he was a pretty nice guy.”
A man who met Clark through gardening said what he’s hearing about Clark doesn’t square with the fellow he met in the Douglas-Sarpy Master Gardeners club.
"Ken Clark was extremely passionate about gardening, and we were good friends," said Glen Heitritter of Omaha. "The person from this sad and terrible tragedy was not the Ken that I knew."
Heitritter said he knew that Clark and Julie Edwards were breaking up, but he didn’t know what was causing their rift.
"My wife and I went with Ken and Julie to a lot of different things," Heitritter said. "They were both involved in volunteerng with various organizations. They were both wonderful people."
The last time Heitritter and Clark got together was a Master Gardeners club meeting in mid-January. Clark didn’t talk about the relationship or anything bothering him.
"I’ve been around him for three years, and he was always out there trying to give back to the community," Heitritter said. "He had a big heart."
On Friday during the standoff, Ward, Williams and others in the neighborhood were asked by law enforcement to stay in their houses and away from the windows.
Williams said at least five law enforcement cars lined the street. She heard the Sheriff’s Office release tear gas late that night but didn’t hear the gunshots. Ward, however, did hear the gunshots.
She said she was more curious than scared.
A U-Haul and a red Dodge Ram were parked on Clark’s icy driveway Saturday morning. There were holes in each window on the front of the house, and the glass door was shattered on the porch.
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