Category Archives: Regional News

Car Stuck On Ice Clipped By Passing Train At Nebraska City

NEBRASKA CITY – A vehicle stuck on an ice-covered 15th Street was struck by an oncoming train at Nebraska City Saturday morning.

The Subaru became stuck on the slope of the street near 11th Corso and police say the driver was able to back mostly off the tracks. A tow truck was called and the railroad notified, but the train could not stop in time.

The train clipped a portion of the car. There were no injuries.

Railroad investigators released the train at 8:44 a.m., about two hours after the accident.

Police Sgt. Ben Murry urged motorists to stay home, saying many streets are a glaze of ice.

The Nebraska City Airport reports about five hours of precipitation beginning at 2:35 a.m. There was fog and mist and 27 -degree temperature at the time of the train collision.

 

Norfolk City Council Debating Possible Depot Renovation

NORFOLK — The future of one of Norfolk’s oldest buildings is up in the air after the City Council was split over a zoning change in its most recent meeting.

Vandelay Investments owns the Depot building at 211 West Northwestern Avenue and requested a zoning change from Heavy Industrial to Multi-family residential so they could convert the property into high-end apartment units.

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Vandelay Representative Ben Conover said the apartment plans would keep most of the historic facade the same.

“We can preserve the aesthetic and history and what we know as one of the first buildings in Norfolk,” Conniver said.

The City Council voted 4-3 with Mayor Josh Moenning providing the necessary fifth vote to advance the zoning proposal past its first reading.  It needs to pass with five votes on the second and third readings to become official.

Councilman Jim Lange was the most vocal opponent of the change, saying the Council should continue its pattern of defending industrial zones.  He added the body approved a bond issue about a decade ago to make the rail yard next to the depot more accessible.

“I cannot believe that we’re gonna say, OK we made this kind of this investment there for the rail so they would be able to put cars back in there when they needed to,” Lange said.  “But now we’re saying, tough luck.”

Turning the Depot into apartments wouldn’t prevent rail companies from storing cars in the yard but it worried Union Pacific enough to write a letter to the Council reminding members it’s an active rail corridor and traffic could increase on the tracks.  Right now, though, council members and Conover say cars like these have been sitting there for months or even years.

That presence isn’t enough for the mayor to want to close down the project.

“In the current time, we shut down opportunities to revitalize neighborhoods because we’re hopeful that some mysterious industry develops, materializes where it hasn’t for a number of years,” Moenning said.

The Council will hold a second public hearing on the zoning change at its next meeting on Monday, March 5th.

If the zoning change doesn’t pass, Conover says his company will likely ditch the historic facade and turn the building into garages and office space for contractors.  

Two students in Lincoln accused of threatening violence at schools

A 16-year-old boy was taken into police custody Thursday after he was accused of threatening violence at Lincoln Northeast High School.

Thursday afternoon, the Lincoln Public Schools’ security team notified police of the threat. After an investigation, the boy was taken into custody on suspicion of making terroristic threats.

Lincoln police said many students did the right thing in reporting concerning statements, and there is no information to suggest an ongoing threat to the school.

Wednesday, Lincoln police responded to what was determined to be a false report of a threat against Lincoln Southeast High School. A 15-year-old student reported that he had seen an Instagram post with a message about shooting people at the school. Investigators determined the boy had created a fake account and made the false threat himself. The boy was referred to the Lancaster County attorney on suspicion of false reporting.

Omaha police said Friday that they had investigated dozens of threats against local schools or students since the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Police urged parents to talk to their children about the serious consequences that can arise from making threats — joking or not.

No Easy Solution, To Preventing Tragic School Shootings

BEATRICE – A police chief who conducts safety audits for schools, says there is no single, easy answer to preventing tragic school shootings like the one in Parkland, Florida that took 17 lives.

Beatrice Police Chief Bruce Lang says banning assault rifles, providing more mental health services, or improving parenting at home, do not individually solve the problem.   He says one simple solution is keeping weapons out of the hands of mentally ill people.

Lang’s company does school safety audits, but some schools have been falling behind in undertaking the audits, in Nebraska.

:37                  “nobody seeing you”

In the past several years, Beatrice Public Schools made security changes that allow school officials to see anyone coming into a school building.  But, Lang says beyond physical changes, school districts must also make sure policies and procedures are practiced and utilized, to improve school safety.

:31                  “not yet, there”

Lang says school districts often gradually build up their safety planning, to handle the costs of making facilities more secure.  He says districts that plan improvements a little bit at a time, eventually reach the goal of a secure school environment…even though it doesn’t mean that bad things won’t happen.

Some suggest that allowing teachers to carry guns, would be a deterrent to school shootings.

:37                  “big drawback”

The chief feels society is headed toward a point where school security measures will be similar to what people see at airports.

:30                  “we will get to”

Lang says older buildings, like Beatrice elementary schools are not ideal, when it comes to their office location and the front door.  He says a lot of problems can be detected simply by being able to see someone approaching the entrance.  Most older schools were designed with the office in a central area, for convenience.  Buildings with a lot of windows, he adds, are a security risk.

:12                  “at odds”

Lang says students of area schools are as safe here, as in any other part of the nation.

:14                  “in place”

Are the schools guaranteed to be safe places?  Lang says the answer, is no.

Beatrice School Administrator Taking Position at McCook

BEATRICE – A Beatrice Public Schools administrator has been hired by a southwest Nebraska public school district.

John Brazell will become the Business Manager for the McCook Public School District.   Brazell says he begins his new job, July 2nd.  McCook is a class-B school in Nebraska.  The community has a population of over 7,500.

Brazell has been Director of Business Affairs for the Beatrice Public School District 15, for the past eight years.   Prior to that, he was a school administrator in Adams, Nebraska and Anita, Iowa.  Brazell holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Hastings College and a Masters in Education, from Kansas State University.

The Beatrice School district eliminated the position of finance and business manager in an administrative restructuring move, which reduced the number of top administrative personnel in the district from four, to three.

Jason Alexander of Ord will take over as Beatrice School Superintendent when Pat Nauroth retires, at the end of this June.  The Beatrice School Board recently named Curriculum Director, Jackie Nielsen, to the new position of Assistant Superintendent.

Ken’s Market Brings Groceries, Jobs Back to Coleridge

COLERIDGE, NE — There’s food back on the shelves, fresh rolls back on display and smiles back behind the counter.

After being closed for seven months, Ken’s Corner Market in Coleridge is back.  And maybe most importantly, jobs, cash and cars are back in downtown.

“It’s coming alive again and it needs to,” manager Paula Dirks said.

It’s back because the community wants it back.  It took town meetings and about 70 investors kicking in nearly $200,000 to revive the grocery store.  That’s why manager Paula Dirks says it’s important to remember it’s the community’s store.

“This is the people’s store and I want people to remember that,” Dirks said. “Whether they invested, they volunteer their time, or they come here and shop.”

The reopening has made life more convenient for customers who were traveling either 10 miles to Hartington or 12 miles to Laurel when the market was shut down.

“It’s perfect because I get off work, come in here, or I can come in here during the day to get something,” customer Desiree Paulsen said.  “It saves me a lot of time.”

“It’s a beautiful store, managed very well,” customer Gail Milander said.  “The shelves are full of nice, clean products and it’s just been a great thing to have back.”

Dirks says the store gets its inventory from Cash-Wa and from Gary’s Food Mart in Laurel. They also rely heavily on volunteers to help unload trucks and stock the items.  

“We need this small town just like all the other towns need their grocery stores and that’s very important to me,” Dirks said.  “I would like to see this continue and keep open, but once again we need those people.  It is their store, they need to come here and shop.”

So far they’ve showed up and shopped.  Dirks says it’s been a thrill to see what used to be empty streets, fill back up.

“There was cars everywhere and that was an awesome feeling,” Dirks said.  “To know that you pull into town and it’s like your town is reborn.”

Omaha police have investigated dozens of threats against schools, students since Florida shooting

Omaha police have investigated 34 threats made against local schools or students since the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Speaking with reporters Thursday, Omaha Deputy Police Chief Greg Gonzalez stressed that any threats, especially those involving a weapon, will trigger a police response, and potentially result in arrests.

“If you’re going to make a threat, whether your intent was not necessarily to injure somebody or cause physical harm, they will be investigated,” Gonzalez said. “If that threat, if those comments rise to the level of probable cause for an arrest, an arrest will be made.”

Gonzalez said police are working closely with school officials to spread that message. He urged parents to talk to their kids about the serious consequences that can arise from making threats — joking or not.

He said it’s “no joking matter, especially when it involves physical harm.”

The threats have affected school districts across the city, and police investigations have resulted in at least three arrests in the last 48 hours, Gonzalez said. More could be pending.

To determine whether a threat is credible, detectives with the felony assault squad may interview the person who made the threat, search their house and talk to their parents, fellow students or other witnesses, Gonzalez said. Then they work with officials including local prosecutors, the Douglas County Attorney’s Office and the Douglas County attorney who handles juvenile cases to determine if felony or misdemeanor charges are warranted.

Some students may be referred to counseling or mental health services. Others might face arrest.

“We really want to get the message out … that every threat is going to be taken seriously and that there’s potentially an arrest that’s going to be involved,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said police can’t be entirely sure why so many threats have cropped up since the Florida shooting, which killed 17 students and school staff. It could be a copycat effect, or parents, students and teachers may be in a heightened state of awareness.

While some threats have spread across social media, others have come to the attention of police after students have overheard potentially alarming conversations and alerted a parent or school counselor.

In a letter sent home to families, Alan Bone, Westside’s director of student services, said marketing students at Westside High are working on creating “see something, hear something, say something” signs to encourage people to report any concerns.

“Intervening with troubled individuals early has the potential to prevent untold suffering,” he wrote. “We have made it easier to report such concerns— anonymously or otherwise — via both our website and social media. We hope that all families will have a conversation about the importance of speaking up when something seems not quite right.”

A number of threats — credible or not — have circulated across multiple districts, including Millard, Westside, Omaha, Elkhorn, Council Bluffs and Plattsmouth, putting parents on edge and drawing responses from law enforcement.

Classes were canceled at Plattsmouth High Wednesday after two threats were made, including one deemed credible by authorities.

Officials said they had been tipped off to a potential school attack planned by two boys, ages 15 and 16. A weapon they had planned to use in the attack was found and secured, and the boys were released to their parents.

The high school was searched by police and a police dog Wednesday night before classes resumed Thursday.

In Council Bluffs, a 12-year-old girl from Kirn Middle School was arrested Thursday morning for making threats via the Snapchat app.

A parent saw the messages, which referenced guns and killing people at school, and alerted police. Police said the girl did not have access to any weapons, but she was charged with one count of threat of terrorism, a felony.

Tuesday afternoon, a dozen police officers were on hand at dismissal at Millard South High, “out of an abundance of caution,” officials said, after two students received a threat about a fight after school.

A 17-year-old boy later was arrested on suspicion of two counts of making terroristic threats against the Millard South students.

In Lincoln, a 15-year-old student found himself in the Lancaster County Youth Services Center after bringing a BB gun that looks like a handgun to school. The teen, who was on probation, brought the gun to Southwest High School. The boy landed in the principal’s office after showing it to other students and then was taken to the youth center on suspicion of violating probation.

And last week, a 13-year-old Elkhorn middle school student was arrested on suspicion of terroristic threats in connection with two alleged threats made on social media.

Omaha girl, 14, charged with fatally shooting her father told friends she was tired of being abused, prosecutor says

A 14-year-old Omaha girl knew where her father kept his gun, a prosecutor said Wednesday, so she got it and shot him in the back of the head as he slept on a mattress.

The girl, Sammaria Cunegin, told friends she was tired of being abused, Assistant Douglas County Attorney Kati Kilcoin said at the girl’s juvenile court hearing.

Her father, Montrel Williams, 48, was found slain Saturday at a home near 41st Street and Bedford Avenue.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said before the hearing that abuse allegations and the girl’s young age — she turns 15 in September — prompted him to file the case in juvenile court.

Kilcoin told Judge Douglas Johnson that detaining Cunegin was warranted, saying she is a danger to others and herself.

Cunegin’s attorney, Assistant Douglas County Public Defender Matt Kraemer, asked that the girl be released to stay with a cousin while awaiting her juvenile court hearing. Johnson denied the request, saying he wanted her to stay with a legal guardian. For now, he decided, she will stay at the Douglas County Youth Center. Johnson said he had found probable cause for her to be held on both counts.

Cunegin has no prior criminal record and is enrolled as a freshman at Northwest High School, Kraemer said.

Williams went by other names and had been convicted of two felonies, Kleine said. At the time of his death, Williams was wanted on a 2017 warrant involving domestic violence.

World-Herald staff writer Alia Conley contributed to this report.

Burglar steals Lincoln woman’s laptop, sex toys, clothes and other items

A 45-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of receiving stolen property after a Lincoln woman reported more than $7,800 worth of items had been stolen from her home.

The 30-year-old woman told police that the stolen items included clothing, sex toys, electronics, children’s toys, a laptop and a watch. Lincoln police said someone had kicked in the front door of the woman’s house sometime between Feb. 15 and 17.

Investigators learned that a man had pawned $1,400 worth of items that were stolen during the burglary. The man, who was on parole, was arrested after other items taken in the burglary were found in his room.

Syracuse Reacts To National “SHS” School Threat

NEBRASKA CITY – The Otoe County Sheriff’s Office says a nationwide social media threat caused concern Thursday morning for Syracuse High School, but authorities say there is no credible threat for any school in Nebraska.

Deputy Sgt. Joe Rehrs was alerted this morning to a Facebook post saying “SHS” is the school I want and telling people there will be shooting tomorrow.

Rehrs: “I’ve been in contact with the Nebraska State Patrol criminal investigation division and they have looked into it because they received the same information this morning. They looked into it and determined the threat originated in Ohio and have determined there is really no credible threat to any local area schools in Otoe County.”

Ohio officials reported Thursday morning that a juvenile female in Springfield, Ohio, admitted to sending out the post under the name “Ray Andres.”

Rehrs said the post spread rapidly on social media, especially at schools like Syracuse where the SHS  comment appeared to apply.

Rehrs: “Investigators suspect this individual, who is responsible for this message, is trying to cause nationwide panic in schools because of the recent events in Florida.”

Despite reports that the sender of the message is in custody, authorities continued to respond to community reaction.

Rehrs: “Tomorrow the sheriff’s office will have deputy presence at Syracuse High School just to make sure parents are comfortable with the situation and know that we are available for any questions they may have.”

Rehrs said threats against schools are not unheard of in Nebraska, but appear to be happening more frequently due to current national trends.