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Off-duty Omaha officer fatally shoots gunman

By Elizabeth Ahlin
Omaha World-Herald Staff Writer

About 60 people had gathered outside a north Omaha gas station when things went horribly wrong early Sunday.

In the well-lit parking lot of Newman's BP Amoco, a fight between two small groups escalated with gunfire just after 2:30 a.m. By the time the sun came up, it was a Mother's Day nightmare.

One man was dead, another was in the hospital, and one of Omaha's officers of the year for 2007 was on administrative leave for his role in the shootings. A grand jury investigation is pending.

LeRoy Goodwin, 21, died early Sunday after being shot by Officer Jarvis Duncan.

Michael Moss, 29, also was shot. He was being treated Sunday at the Nebraska Medical Center for injuries that were not believed to be life-threatening.

Newman's BP Amoco, near 30th Street and Ames Avenue, is just a football toss from the northeast police precinct. Owner Brian Newman said the business draws a cross-section of customers, including notables such as State Sen. Ernie Chambers and former Omaha Police Chief Thomas Warren, for fill-ups.

At night, he said, the well-lit station, the only business in the area open 24 hours a day, becomes a hangout for young people. Newman has seen crowds of 50 to 100, and he said the large numbers occasionally bring "trouble." But not the kind of violence seen early Sunday.

Hours after the shooting, interim Police Chief Eric Buske gave this account at a press conference:

A couple of hours after midnight Sunday, Duncan and Officer Randy Szemplenski were working their regular off-duty job as weekend security guards at the gas station, a popular hangout, when the brawl erupted.

The officers, in their police uniforms, tried to break up the crowd and used Mace. Most people left, but two small groups of about five people began to fight.

Goodwin allegedly pulled a gun, shooting Moss.

Duncan drew his service weapon and shot Goodwin.

Goodwin was taken to Creighton University Medical Center, where he later died.

His death triggers a grand jury investigation. Under Nebraska law, a grand jury must investigate any time a person dies in police custody or while police are trying to make an arrest.

Buske offered his sympathy and defended the officers' actions.

"We wish to express our sincere condolences to the family of LeRoy Goodwin," Buske said.

A handgun was found near Goodwin, he said. Police think both Duncan and Goodwin fired more than one shot.

Both Duncan, an 11-year veteran of the Police Department, and Szemplenski, a 19-year veteran, have been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of police investigations by both the homicide unit and the internal affairs unit.

"The officers were acting to defend life," Buske said. "They saw an individual shooting, and they responded accordingly."

Goodwin had some minor brushes with the law; the most recent was a shoplifting conviction in January.

Moss has been shot before. In January 2006, Moss was seriously injured when he was shot during a fight at the Nowhere Bar in the 2600 block of South 120th Street.

Duncan recently was honored as one of the Omaha Police Department's officers of the year for 2007. He was one of two officers who helped to save the owner of an Omaha car dealership who had been beaten, robbed and locked in the truck of a car. He also was honored as officer of the month in July 2006.

Gas station owner Newman called Duncan and Szemplenski "very good officers" and said sympathy should go to Duncan as well as the Goodwin family.

"We need to feel for Jarvis because he's got a heart and a family too," Newman said. "There's no way he wanted to be shooting somebody's son on Mother's Day."

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