Breaking News Emails
Even as they were still engaged in a fierce pursuit and gun battle with a fugitive, Omaha officers were desperately trying to save the life of fallen colleague Kerrie Orozco, police radio calls released Thursday reveal.
Orozco, 29, a seven-year Omaha police veteran who was working as a detective with the department's fugitive task force, died Wednesday from a gunshot wound that struck her in the chest just above the her bulletproof vest, police said Thursday.
It was her last shift before she was to have started maternity leave to take care of Olivia Ruth, the daughter who was born prematurely Feb. 17 and was to have gone home for the first time Thursday.
Members of the fugitive task force were pursuing Marcus Wheeler, 26, described as a convicted felon and known gang member, when Orozco was shot. In the volley of gunfire, Wheeler was also fatally wounded, police said.
Officer Jeff Shada, a 27-year member of the police department, pulled Orozco onto a nearby lawn and began first aid as other officers ran after Wheeler.
"Help an officer 30th and Martin Avenue! Help an officer 30th and Martin Avenue! Help an officer 30th and Martin Avenue! Officer down!" a male officer can be heard shouting over police dispatch radio. "Get a squad here now!"
Shortly thereafter, two uniformed patrol officers arrived and began administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation, according to a timeline of events provided by Omaha police. Meanwhile, Sgt. Jeff Kopietz, who had lost sight of Wheeler, gave chase and eventually found him east to where he had collapsed.
As many as 20 officers accompanied Orozco to Creighton Hospital, where a trauma team was unable to save her, police and the hospital said.
Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert ordered city flags flown at half-staff through the Memorial Day weekend, saying she would "missed and remembered as a loving wife, mother, daughter and dedicated officer." Visitation and a funeral will be Tuesday at St. John's Catholic Church at Creighton University.
Orozco was stepmother to her husband's two children from a previous marriage. The police department said the children's biological mother asked that all donations go to support Orozco's newborn daughter because "it is important to focus on Olivia Ruth."
Colleagues said Orozco had a passion for community service that went beyond her police duties. Fluent in Spanish, she often served as a Spanish interpreter for other officers and worked with the Latino Police Officers Easter Egg Hunt.
Orozco volunteered with the Special Olympics and was president of the Police Officers Ball to benefit Special Olympics Nebraska. She also coached baseball for the North Omaha Boys and Girls Club.
Abdul Muhammad, teen director for the Boys and Girls Club, told NBC station WOWT of Omaha that Orozco, who was called "Coach K", was the "bread and butter" of the program — always trying to figure out a way to get every team member into the game.
"A lot of it is changing the mind of these kids, seeing what they see as cool isn't as cool as being responsible, isn't as cool as going to school and getting good grades," Orozco says in a promotional video for the police department.
"The community owes a great deal to such a wonderful person," Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said Thursday. "Her loss will not only impact the police officers but will also be a huge loss for the citizens of Omaha."