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Nebraska cop shot in face by suspected t-shirt shoplifter

Police car lights. (Dreamstime/TNS)
March 17, 2021

A police officer was shot four times on Friday while responding to a shoplifting incident at a Nebraska mall.

Omaha Police Department Officer Jeffrey Wittstruck responded to a shoplifting call at JCPenny in Westroads Mall, where a suspected shoplifter reported by security ultimately refused to comply and shot Wittstruck four times, the department stated in a press release.

Wittstruck sustained gunshot wounds in his head and face. He was transported to the Nebraska Medical Center in critical condition. The department said Wittstruck is now “stable and recovering.”

Store security had detained 21-year-old Kenya Lamont Jenkins Jr. after he was observed stuffing shirts in his backpack and exiting the store without paying.

“The suspect gave a false name to security and was later determined to be Kenya Lamont Jenkins Jr.,” the press release stated. “Officer Wittstruck spoke with Jenkins but Jenkins was not forthcoming or cooperative. Officer Wittstruck directed Jenkins to remove his backpack at which time Jenkins stood up and placed his right hand in his sweatshirt pocket.”

Jenkins refused to comply with Wittstruck’s orders, prompting Wittstruck to attempt an arrest, after which a struggle ensued. Jenkins pulled a gun out and fired four shots, striking Wittstruck in the face and the top of his head.

“A brief struggle ensued and Officer Wittstruck drew his taser, Jenkins refused all directives and placed his right hand back in his sweatshirt pocket,” the release read.

Following the shooting, Jenkins fled the scene. A Nebraska State Patrol trooper later arrested Jenkins after a high-speech chase in which “the suspect vehicle reached speeds in excess of 140 mph and continued to drive westbound on I-80 in a reckless manner.”

Jenkins is facing charges including attempted murder and use of a weapon to commit a felony, CNN reported. The department said Wittstruck’s firearm was never removed from its holster and was not fired.

“Our prayers are with Officer Wittstruck and his family for a full recovery. On behalf of all Omaha Police Officers, thank you for the showing of support and concern,” Chief Todd Schmaderer said in a statement. “Omaha Police Officers answer 911 calls over and over again throughout the day to keep Omaha safe. It is important to remember the dangers officers put themselves in on each and every call; calls that must be answered because someone was in need.”