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March 23, 2007
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Neb. stand-off requires diners to dash

By Jason Kuiper and Abe Winter
Omaha World-Herald

OMAHA, Neb. - Police with a riot shield and drawn weapons were not supposed to be on the menu Tuesday night for 60 people enjoying dinner at the Old Country Buffet near 75th and Dodge Streets.

But after one of four men believed to have been involved in a shooting that afternoon ran into the restaurant about 6:30 p.m., police evacuated the place.

"The cops said, 'This is not a drill.' . . . Originally I thought it might be a bomb threat," said Mark Fitzgerald, who was there meeting with his ham radio group, as the members do every Tuesday night.

While Fitzgerald was sitting down to his first plate of food, police were searching the area for possible suspects in a shooting that occurred about noon in north Omaha.

The victim in that shooting, Charles Terry, 18, of Omaha, told police that he and a friend were walking near 18th and Grant Streets when four men in a gray or silver Chrysler pulled up, and the two groups exchanged words.

Someone in the car shot Terry. He was listed in serious condition Wednesday at Creighton University Medical Center, a hospital spokeswoman said.

About 6:30 p.m., a police officer spotted a car in the Crossroads Mall parking lot that matched the description of the car involved in the shooting. It had been reported stolen on Monday.

Another officer saw four men running toward a store after seeing the officer. Two of them were caught, but the other two ran into the store. Police surrounded the area, and an officer later saw one of the men run into the nearby Old Country Buffet.

That suspect, Officer David Spizzirri said, ran into the women's bathroom and told women inside he had a gun, though he never showed one. Police entered the restaurant, evacuated customers, talked the suspect out of the bathroom and took him into custody. Spizzirri declined to say whether a weapon was recovered.

The fourth suspect was not caught.

No injuries were reported at the mall or the restaurant.

Two 18-year-old men and a 17-year-old boy were arrested on suspicion of theft by receiving, over $1,500. In addition, one of the 18-year-olds was arrested on suspicion of felony carrying a concealed weapon, second offense. The other was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor carrying a concealed weapon, first offense, and possession of an unregistered firearm.

The 17-year-old also was arrested on misdemeanor carrying a concealed weapon, possession of an unregistered firearm, giving false information and obstructing an officer.

Marstelle Neidbalski, manager of Old Country Buffet, lauded the police effort.

"The only thing I can say is that police were very professional," she said. "They captured the assailant, got the gun and no one was hurt. The employees and customers were all safe."

After the ordeal, the customers were allowed to enter the restaurant and collect their belongings. However, because the food had been sitting out for about 2 1/2 hours, the restaurant closed.

"We just locked the doors and closed up," Neidbalski said. "Anyone who was here, we gave them a coupon for a complimentary meal."

Copyright 2007 The Omaha World-Herald Company

Full story: Neb. stand-off requires diners to dash






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