A Douglas County district judge has ordered that a case involving a teen accused of shooting at Omaha police officers be transferred to juvenile court, frustrating law enforcement officials and the Omaha police union.

The decision marked the second time Judge Marlon Polk has transferred a case of a teen shooting at law enforcement officers to juvenile court.

Esai Pinales, 16, has been charged with eight felonies, including attempted assault, use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony and discharging a firearm at an occupied motor vehicle. Polk ruled last week that the case will be moved to juvenile court, which will have jurisdiction over Pinales until he turns 19.

Authorities have said Pinales and 18-year-old Keven Solorzano shot at an unmarked Omaha police car with two detectives and an intern inside near 1314 Pine St. Two bullets hit the car, but no one was injured in the shooting, which occurred in June. The officers did not fire their guns, the Police Department said.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said Friday that Pinales is a documented gang member who also has pending cases tied to an unrelated robbery and shooting and an assault at the Douglas County Youth Center.

Pinales also has admitted in Sarpy County juvenile court to theft by unlawful taking of more than $5,000, tampering with physical evidence and creating a visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct of a child. He was given nearly 3½ years of probation starting in March 2018.

Kleine said his office plans to appeal Polk’s ruling.

“We’re very frustrated and disheartened,” Kleine said. “His intent was to hurt somebody seriously by firing a gun at him. It’s as serious of a felony as it gets.”

Kleine said Polk ruled from the bench but said he hopes to see a written order to understand the judge’s thought process.

Two years ago this month, Polk ordered that then-17-year-old Tyler Pitzl should be tried in juvenile court on allegations that he shot at Douglas County deputies, striking one. Polk said Pitzl would be better rehabilitated in juvenile court. An appeal from Kleine’s office reached the Nebraska Supreme Court, which said Polk did not overreach in his decision.

Pitzl was ordered by a juvenile court judge to serve probation until he turned 19 — which would occur four months later — and perform 240 hours of community service.

Earlier this month, Douglas County District Judge Duane Dougherty ruled that Nick Cisar, 17½, should be tried in juvenile court in connection with a stabbing of a classmate at Burke High School, noting Cisar’s history of mental illness.

Both judges are up for retention in next year’s general election.

Anthony Conner, the president of the Omaha Police Officers Association, said the union’s members are upset and demand action. The group plans to launch anti-retention campaigns against Polk and, possibly, Dougherty.

Conner recently trained with one of the officers who was shot at near 13th and Pine Streets. The officer, Conner said, reacted angrily to the news of Polk’s decision.

“Imagine staring down the barrel of a gun and thinking your life may be over when you have a wife and kids, and that person suffers no consequences,” Conner said. “When someone shows themselves to be violent enough to shoot at police officers, they should be held accountable at the highest level possible.”

In the June 19 incident, two plainclothes detectives and an intern in an unmarked car saw two males sprint from behind a house and jump into a Honda Accord. The detectives followed the Honda for about a mile to near 13th and Pine, where the shots were fired.

At some point as detectives followed the car, the people in the Honda called someone they knew had weapons to say they were being followed. They told the person they called that the car behind them contained either rival gang members or police officers and they asked for their help.

Conner said the judges’ decisions put officers at risk because juvenile court has limited time to help rehabilitate the offender, increasing the likelihood the youth will reoffend.

“It makes it more dangerous for the public but also the police officers that have to go after these juveniles later,” Conner said. “They’re stuck in the mud spinning their wheels going after these same people who are getting more and more violent.”

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Alia Conley covers breaking news, crime, crime trends, the Omaha Police Department and initial court hearings. Follow her on Twitter @aliavalentine. Phone: 402-444-1068.

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