Omaha Target shooting: Police detail timeline of events
Joseph Jones’ family called the incident ‘suicide by cop’
OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT/Gray News) - The Omaha Police Department on Friday released a detailed timeline of Tuesday’s active shooter scene at a Target store.
WOWT reports the timeline spans 17 minutes, from the time the shooter arrived at the store until Omaha police said Officer Brian Vanerheiden shouted several commands at the gunman to drop his semi-automatic weapon before the fatal shot was fired.
According to the OPD timeline, the gunman, who they identified as Joseph Jones, 32, of Omaha, arrived at the store in a personal vehicle at 11:49 a.m. Upon his arrival at the store, police said Jones, wearing a dark-colored coat and hat, removed a cardboard box from his vehicle and walked into the grocery entrance at the southeast part of the store. He then proceeded to the pharmacy.
OPD said investigators estimated that about 250 guests and employees were inside the SuperTarget at the time.
Less than 10 minutes after he pulled into the parking lot, the gunman pointed a semi-automatic rifle at a Target employee before firing one round into the air.
He then walked toward the front of the store and fired two more rounds. At 11:59 a.m., he took off his coat and fired his weapon toward the self-checkout area at the front of the store, then shot at a drink cooler.
At that same time, Douglas County 911 received a call reporting the incident as a shooting at the SuperTarget store located at 180th Street and West Center Road and assigned a police unit to respond.
At noon, the gunman went into the grocery entrance vestibule and fired multiple rounds before briefly exiting the store. When he went back in, he fired another round, according to the OPD timeline. He then continued walking through the store carrying the semi-automatic rifle.
At 12:05 p.m., OPD Officer Brian Vanerheiden and a Nebraska state trooper entered the store at the southwest entrance and made contact with the gunman, who they said was still holding the gun.
A minute later, Officer Vanderheiden shot the gunman after giving more than 20 “loud verbal commands to drop the rifle,” according to the OPD release.
Police said the gunman responded “Come on!” three times during the exchange but refused to drop the rifle, then said “I’ll kill you!”
“Officer Vanderheiden then fired one round from his service handgun,” the release states.
The shot ultimately killed the gunman.
“This entire interaction lasts approximately 15 seconds,” the release states.
Meanwhile, other law enforcement at the scene were searching for any additional shooters and possible victims as they made their way through the store, police said.
According to authorities, Jones purchased the semi-automatic rifle at Cabela’s four days before walking into the Target store with it on Tuesday. Police said he was armed with an AR-15-style rifle and 13 loaded magazines when he entered the store.
Police said Friday that investigators are still trying to determine the motives behind Jones’ actions on Tuesday.
His family called it “suicide by cop.”
The in-custody death case will be sent to a grand jury, in accordance with Nebraska law.
“We would like to thank all of the local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and the Omaha Fire Department for their quick response to this critical incident,” Friday’s OPD release states. “Thank you to the Target employees for your bravery. We are thankful there were no additional lives lost. We offer our condolences to Mr. Jones’ family.”
Shoppers were welcomed back to the store Thursday morning at 10 a.m.
Drew Guenther, the store director, issued a statement ahead of the reopening thanking customers and “the community for the kind outreach these past couple of days,” and that the initial response by Omaha police “likely saved lives.”
Full Omaha Police Department timeline
11:49 a.m. – Suspect arrives at Target in a personal vehicle.
11:56 a.m. – Suspect removes a cardboard shipping box from his vehicle and walks into the southeast grocery entrance wearing a dark-colored coat and hat.
11:57 a.m. – Suspect walks to the pharmacy area. A shipping box was later found in this area.
11:58 a.m. – Suspect points the rifle at a Target employee. He then points the rifle in the air firing one round. Walks toward the front of the store and fires another two rounds.
11:59 a.m. – Suspect takes off his coat. He fires the rifle toward the self-checkout. He then fires at a drink cooler.
11:59 a.m. – Douglas County 911 receives the first 911 call to 17810 West Center Road for a “shooting.”
11:59 a.m. – First police unit is assigned the 911 call.
12:00 p.m. – Suspect enters the grocery entrance vestibule and fires multiple rounds inside the vestibule.
12:02 p.m. – Suspect briefly exits the store and then re-enters. He fires another round.
12:04 p.m. – Suspect walks west through the store still holding the rifle.
12:05 p.m. – Officer Vanderheiden and a Nebraska state trooper immediately enter the southwest entrance.
12:05 p.m. – Officer Vanderheiden and NSP trooper make contact with the suspect who is still holding the rifle.
12:06 p.m. – Suspect is shot by Officer Vanderheiden.
Investigative reporter Brian Mastre contributed to this report.
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