Joseph Jones was identified as the suspect accused of entering an Omaha, Nebraska, Target store on January 31, 2023, and firing rounds from an AR-15 rifle, according to an Omaha police press release. He was shot dead by police, authorities said. No one else was injured, according to police.
“Investigators have notified the suspect’s next of kin. He has been identified as Joseph Jones, 32, of suburban Omaha,” the February 1, 2023, police press release said. Omaha police released a series of photos they say show Jones holding the rifle inside the store; one of the photos was a still shot from a police body cam video.
Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said in a news conference that Omaha police received 29 different 911 calls starting at 11:59 p.m. on January 31, 2023. The “first arriving officers went into the building, confronted the suspect and shot him dead,” Schmaderer said.
The February 1 release identifies the officer who shot Jones as Officer Brian Vanderheiden. “He has served the Omaha Police Department for 20 years. He has been placed on paid administrative leave per department policy,” Omaha police wrote.
A motive has not been released. “He did enter shooting,” Lieutenant Neal Bonacci said in the news conference. “He had plenty of ammunition, and he was armed with an AR-15,” Bonacci said of the suspect.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Joseph Jones Purchased the AR-15 Rifle 4 Days Before the Active Shooter Incident, Omaha Police Say
According to the police press release, “It was determined that Mr. Jones purchased the rifle used in this incident at Cabela’s four days prior to this incident.” In the news conference, the chief praised the massive law enforcement response.
“This is what you want. When you have an active shooter in your city, you want a massive response like this,” Schmaderer said.
He said that 911 callers reported an active shooter “within Target,” and there was a massive law enforcement response to the store. “Everybody in the city responded to this call if they were able to,” said Schmaderer. Bonacci said it wasn’t clear what the suspect was wearing, but he entered through a front entrance.
The chief said the suspect was a white male who was estimated to be in his 30s. He confirmed that the suspect had an AR-15 rifle with him and “plenty of ammunition.”
Schmaderer said that shell casings suggest that the suspect entered the Target store and was firing rounds.
It is not known whether he was firing at anybody, according to Schmaderer, who said police could not find anyone who was injured, other than the suspect, who “is dead by gunshot through Omaha police.”
In a press release, police wrote:
OPD Uniform Patrol officers and a Nebraska State Trooper arrived at the Target and entered the store where they encountered a white male suspect armed with a rifle. Officers issued numerous loud verbal commands ordering the suspect to drop the rifle. An Omaha Police officer then fired their service handgun striking the suspect who was declared deceased by Omaha Fire Department personnel as a result of the incident.
The subsequent investigation revealed that the male suspect had fired multiple shots inside Target, and was in possession of an AR-15 style rifle and thirteen (13) loaded rifle magazines.
2. Joseph Jones’ Uncle Says His Nephew Had Schizophrenia & the Family Repeatedly Called Law Enforcement About His Guns
Joey Safchik, a journalist with KETV, tweeted that Jones’ uncle said “the gunman had a long history of mental illness — specifically, schizophrenia.”
The television station reported that Larry Derksen, Jr., the uncle, said the family had “repeatedly called law enforcement worried about the guns Jones kept in his Gretna-area home.”
According to KETV, the Sarpy County Sheriff “acknowledged Wednesday that deputies had been in contact with Jones” but could not make further comment.
“I agonize over what I could have done different. I’ve called the police, have disarmed him,” Derksen told KETV NewsWatch 7. “I’ve called mental facilities. I begged with people. And Joey was not rational.”
The uncle told the television station: “I don’t think there was any intention of hurting anybody. He was a hurting kid. He was raised in a very tough environment. And this was predictable.”
He added to KETV:
When you’re hearing voices and they’re telling you paranoid things and they’re telling you that the cartel’s after them … when someone says that to a psychiatrist, a psychiatrist needs to have the responsibility to say, at this point in time, I’m contacting law enforcement and this person’s right to own a firearm needs to be taken from them.
According to 6 News, witnesses told the television station that “about 15 customers and some employees shut themselves into storage containers” in the back of the store.
Jasmine Gascar, a customer at the Target who works nearby, told 6 News she hid in a fitting room and heard 10-15 shots.
“I was sure I was gonna die,” she told the television station, confirming that she believed an active shooter was in the store.
“I think a minute more — who knows?” she told 6 News. “I never thought this would happen to me, ever. … This has to stop. We can’t live like this. We can’t live like this. … I just can’t believe our kids are growing up with this.”
The police chief confirmed in the news conference that people were hiding in the store.
3. Police Released a Photo of the Rifle They Say Joseph Jones Used
Police released the above photo of the weapon they say Jones carried into the Target store.
In a statement, Target said the store will be closed temporarily.
“Following an incident earlier today at our Omaha West location, we are extremely grateful that all of our guests and team members were safely evacuated from the store without injury,” Target wrote in the statement on January 31, 2023.
“The store will remain closed temporarily, during which time we will provide our team members full compensation and access to on-site counseling for those who need it. We thank the Omaha Police Department for their fast response and we continue to partner with them on their investigation. We refer additional questions to law enforcement at this time.”
4. Omaha’s Mayor Says Police Prevented ‘a Mass Casualty Event’
Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert praised the police response in a statement to KETV.
“Omaha Police saved many lives today by their quick actions to prevent a mass casualty event at Target,” she said in the statement.
“Omaha Police officers are highly trained to respond to and assess life-threatening situations. Their bravery and high level of skill should be commended,” Stothert told the television station.
5. Officers Responded Within Minutes & Shot Joseph Jones, Police Say
Bonacci said in the news conference that officers responded within minutes. He said they did exactly what their active shooting training said: “We go inside, and we neutralize the threat,” he said.
He said “hundreds” of law enforcement officers, from both state and local agencies, responded to the scene.
The suspect was found at the front of the store, he said. He said police believe there was only one shooter.
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