Omaha, NE.—Gov. Pete Ricketts today fired the head of the Nebraska State Patrol and took several other members of the patrol off the job pending further review of a deadly chase and crash first reported exclusively by News Channel Nebraska.
Superintendent Brad Rice took his belongings “and went home” after he was relieved of his duties this morning, said Ricketts.
According to the governor, over the last few days —during his office’s initial review of the patrol’s handling of the death of 32-year-old Antoine LaDeaux last October— it became clear that the patrol’s top brass abused their power. “This review found interference into the internal investigation process of the State Patrol and violations of internal policies among other concerning issues at the highest levels of the agency’s leadership,” said Ricketts.
As NCN first reported, after LaDeaux’s death the Nebraska State Trooper involved in the chase changed his story and set off a feud within the patrol.
In an in house e-mail, Internal Affairs Lt. Dennis Leonard—who has since retired—clearly voiced his frustration with the patrol’s handling of the case.
“I never thought this likely but I must say that I no longer believe we are capable of objectively investigating our own,” wrote Leonard, supporting sources who have told News Channel Nebraska that the patrol has been involved in a cover-up.
Several days ago Taylor Gage, a spokesman for Gov. Pete Ricketts, had defended the patrol telling NCN: “This matter went to a grand jury, and the grand jury found the State Patrol’s actions were appropriate.”
As News Channel Nebraska has reported Lt. Leonard never testified before that grand jury.
In addition to the firing of Colonel Rice, six other members of the patrol have been placed on administrative leave including Lt. Col. Thomas Schwarten.
Ricketts has named Major Russ Stanczyk as Interim Superintendent of the State Patrol effective immediately as the search begins for Rice’s replacement.
Governor Ricketts says his office has turned over the initial findings of the investigation to the FBI and the US Attorney’s Office to help those agencies with their own investigations.
To read NCN’s full investigation click here. To view the state trooper’s in-car camera video of the crash see the video above.
Joe can be heard Tuesday’s at 7:10 a.m. on KLIN radio with Jack Mitchell.