September 19, 2003
Ofc. Pratt Dies of Injuries
Officer Down: Jason Pratt - [Omaha, Nebraska]
'We lost a true hero this morning'; Bouquets spread news throughout hospital...
BY TODD COOPER AND LYNN SAFRANEK, WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITERS
Omaha Police Officer Jason Tye Pratt died Friday - and a community began to grieve. Pratt, 30, died after spending the past week in critical condition with a gunshot wound to the head.
Flags were lowered to half-staff. Officers wrapped black bands around their badges. And a black shroud draped the entrance to Central Police Headquarters.
Pratt's northeast precinct captain, Thomas Warren, said Pratt - a husband, father, son and brother - made the ultimate sacrifice.
Albert Rucker shot Pratt in the head about 10 p.m. Sept. 11 as Pratt tried to find him after a traffic stop in northeast Omaha. Rucker was shot and killed by another police officer.
"We lost a true hero here this morning," Warren said.
Said Mayor Mike Fahey: "Today, Omaha lost one of its protectors, but his family has lost much more."
Pratt's wife, Stacy, his parents, Michael and Rita Pratt, and other family members were at his side when he died at 4:25 a.m. More than 20 fellow officers also were at the hospital when he died, sharing stories of their beloved colleague - a gregarious guy with a penchant for chatting up residents on his beat and chasing down suspects.
Pratt leaves behind two daughters, Madison, 3, and Jordyn, 81/2 months. His funeral will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Civic Auditorium.
"It's indescribable, the reality that Tye won't be back with us," said Officer Dan Clark, a friend who served with Pratt on the emergency response unit. "It's hard to imagine what his family is going through. For his parents, no one should have to bury a child. And for Stacy, she's going to have to raise those two beautiful girls without him. You just think to yourself, 'They're not going to know their daddy.'
"It seems so unjust."
Word of his death drew condolences from people throughout the area, including the family of his assailant. "We're sorry that this happened," said Charlene Tate-Haynes, Rucker's aunt. "We're very sorry that this happened."
The Rev. Jeremiah McGhee, pastor of Mount Sinai Baptist Church, extended sympathies on behalf of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, a coalition of Omaha churches. "Our hearts sincerely go out to the Pratt family... We want the public to know that we stand with bereaving families at any time, and we are in prayer for the Pratt family... He died protecting us."
Indeed, everyone from Pratt's family to his colleagues to his hospital workers were trying to sort through their sorrow.
Chris Hyers, associate administrator at Creighton University Medical Center, fought back tears as he addressed the media Friday.
"Early this morning, Officer Pratt's condition began to deteriorate substantially," Hyers said.
He said Pratt suffered complications that were "too complicated to describe."
The same could be said for officers' emotions, said interim Police Chief Al Pepin. A weary and somber-looking Pepin said he will ask another law enforcement agency to help police the city during Pratt's funeral so as many officers as possible can attend the services.
In the meantime, he said: "It's very difficult. They still have to go out there and do their jobs with this at the back of their minds."
Among Pratt's colleagues, Clark said, he feels the worst for those who were at the scene, including Erik Gustafson, Pratt's partner that night, Frank Platt and Robert Branch. Platt shot and killed Rucker.
Warren said the officers involved with the shootings have had stress debriefings and other officers in the precinct, particularly the ones who worked closely with Pratt, have been offered counseling. Officers also were encouraged to lean on the people who understand their work and its danger the most - each other.
But mostly, officers were focusing on their fallen friend and his family. They remembered Pratt as happy-go-lucky but intensely committed to his family and his job.
Pratt's partner, Trevor Thrasher, said Pratt was intense when he needed to be but had a magnetic personality with the people on his beat.
"Absolutely, a funny guy," Thrasher said. "He would make you laugh. He had a common bond with the common person."
A memorial was planned at Pratt's alma mater, Omaha Burke High School, at 6:45 p.m. today. Officers will ring the field, a helicopter will fly over and Pratt's jersey will be retired.
Pepin said Pratt's family - which thanked the community for its outpouring since the shooting - needs their support now more than ever.
"Stacy has been extremely strong throughout this ordeal," Pepin said. "She's been a trouper, but I know that can't last."
Pepin left with one lasting image from Friday morning.
Whenever officers close their shift, he said, they radio to dispatch "10-7" - which means "end of shift."
Immediately after Pratt died Friday, the call went out over radio to every police officer:
"Officer Pratt is 10-7. End of shift."
World-Herald staff writers Nichole Aksamit, Bob Glissmann, Erin Grace and Christopher Burbach contributed to this report.