Omaha, NE.—Gov. Pete Ricketts today confirmed an “ongoing FBI investigation” into widespread and potentially criminal misconduct within the top command of the Nebraska State Patrol, alleged misconduct first reported exclusively by News Channel Nebraska.
Following NCN’s investigation into a deadly 2016 chase and crash in western Nebraska Ricketts fired the head of the patrol, Colonel Brad Rice, and suspended Lt. Col. Thomas Schwarten and five others.
Those five have not been publicly named and Ricketts kept their names under wraps today, citing the ongoing federal and state probes. The search for Rice’s successor is also continuing.
The governor’s lead investigator did say his review—part of a 15 page report released today— found “dishonesty and dereliction of duty” in the top ranks of the patrol.
Workplace harassment and two use of force cases are at the heart of the patrol’s troubles, including the on-camera chase and death of Antoine LaDeaux which triggered a major feud within the patrol.
In an in house e-mail first exposed by News Channel Nebraska, 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.
Initially the governor’s office defended the patrol. Spokesman Taylor Gage noting, “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.
State Sen. Ernie Chambers has said he intends to seek a separate grand jury investigation into the patrol because “state laws were broken.”
Chambers has also questioned the integrity of any federal probe arguing that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is “pro-police.”
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.