Neb. troopers kill armed fugitive after chase

Jason Kuiper, World-Herald Staff Writer
The Omaha World-Herald
Copyright 2006 The Omaha World-Herald Company 

A man wanted by authorities for questioning in a double shooting in Illinois died in a gunfight with Nebraska State Patrol troopers Tuesday afternoon.

The shooting happened about 3:30 p.m., following a 60-mile chase on westbound Interstate 80 that started near Alda and ended about five miles west of the Overton interchange. Overton is about 30 miles west of Kearney.

Hermelindo Rivas, 38, was wanted for allegedly shooting two roommates Monday night, the Mundelein (Ill.) Police Department reported.

One roommate was treated at an Illinois hospital and released. The other, a woman, was still hospitalized after being shot in the leg and abdomen.

Mundelein police secured an arrest warrant for Rivas charging him with two counts of attempted first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated battery with a firearm.

Police in Illinois believe he was headed to southern California.

The U.S. Marshal's office in Illinois alerted Nebraska authorities that Rivas might be in Nebraska. The office gave a description of his vehicle, which was spotted by a trooper. A pursuit ensued.

Spikes were used to stop Rivas' vehicle, according to the State Patrol. Troopers then repeatedly ordered Rivas to get out of the vehicle.

He finally got out, brandished a firearm and shot at a trooper. Rivas was then shot to death.

The State Patrol's Capt. Jim Parish said today that officers repeatedly told Rivas to put the gun down, which he did not.

Dawson County Attorney Liz Waterman said investigators were still looking into how many shots were fired and by whom.

"We are investigating the number of officers who fired," she said this morning. Waterman said an autopsy was scheduled for today and that officers will be present to collect ballistics evidence.

State Patrol spokesman Mike Meyer said he believes Tuesday's fatal shooting was the first for Nebraska state troopers since September 2004, when a standoff in Avoca ended with an armed man being fatally shot.

A Cass County grand jury cleared two Nebraska State Patrol officers in the fatal shooting of Mahlon Wolfe.

Under state law, a grand jury must convene any time someone dies in police custody or while police are trying to catch the person.

"This is a fairly rare occurrence," Parish said. "The majority we stop, even dangerous criminals, when faced with an option, choose to do the right thing and are taken into custody." 

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