Neb. chief charged in fatal shooting

Omaha World-Herald

LINCOLN. Neb. — A grand jury has indicted Crawford Police Chief Rick Thompson on a charge of felony second-degree assault in the fatal shooting of a teenage burglary suspect.

Thompson, 55, was taken into custody Monday night, shortly after a Dawes County grand jury completed seven days of deliberations over the shooting of Jesse Britton on Oct. 3.

Britton, 16, was killed after Thompson and a state game warden, Dan Kling, entered a vacant bar in Crawford to investigate a reported break-in. Kling was not indicted.

Some Crawford residents reacted with shock and outrage at the shooting, which they maintained was not justified and could have been avoided. Britton's family also was critical of Thompson, police chief since 1999, for what they called his aggressive tactics in the days leading up to the shooting.

The boy's mother, Patty Britton, said Thompson had searched her home for her son without a warrant and had seemed to target Jesse in investigating several recent break-ins without looking at other suspects.

"Thank God there is justice in this world," said Dennis Lyons, a Crawford resident and one of the leading critics of the police chief.

Shortly after the incident, Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning had said he was told that Britton had pointed a handgun at the officers and refused to lower the weapon when ordered.

The 16-member grand jury did not issue a report, as is sometimes done, detailing its reason for indicting Thompson.

Thompson, who was being held at the Dawes County Jail, appeared before Dawes County District Judge Brian Silverman this morning. The judge set bail at 10 percent of $50,000 and set several conditions if Thompson is released on bail, including that he not enter the city limits of Crawford.

An arraignment hearing was scheduled for Jan. 8.

The charge he faces carries a sentence of up to five years in prison, up to a $10,000 fine, or both.

Crawford Mayor L.J. Moloney, in a statement, said Thompson had been placed on unpaid leave due to the indictment. The police chief had been on paid administrative leave since the shooting.

"This is no reflection of the guilt or innocence of Rick Thompson. It is just what I feel is in the best interest of the city of Crawford at the moment," the mayor said.

A Crawford police officer, Paul Kimminau, was named interim chief in the town of 1,100.

Crawford is in extreme northwest Nebraska, near Fort Robinson State Park.

Copyright 2007 Omaha World-Herald

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