Armed man shot by police inside Target didn’t fire at people
A man who entered a crowded Target store in Nebraska armed with an AR-15-style weapon was shot by police less than 10 minutes after firing his first round, according to a timeline released Friday.
No one else was hurt, and the timeline made no mention of Joseph Jones firing directly at any of the customers or workers. Jones’ uncle, Larry Derksen Jr., said his nephew had schizophrenia and that his mental illness left him isolated. Police offered no motive, but Derksen said he suspected his nephew wanted police to kill him.
It all started Tuesday morning when Jones, 32, pulled up to the Omaha store. He removed a cardboard shipping box from his vehicle and walked into the grocery entrance at 11:56 a.m. wearing a dark colored coat and hat, according to police.
Once inside, he walked through the pharmacy area, abandoning the shipping box. At 11:58 a.m., Jones pointed a rifle at a Target employee. He then aimed it at the air, firing one round, before walking toward the front of the store. There, he fired another two rounds before taking off his coat, and shooting at the self-checkout and a drink cooler.
That’s when Douglas County officials got the first 911 call from one of the approximately 250 guests and workers inside the store, according to the timeline.
Police said Jones fired multiple rounds from inside the grocery store vestibule, briefly exiting and reentering the store. Then he started to walk through the store with the rifle.
Police said that the first officers on the scene included Officer Brian Vanderheiden, a 20-year veteran of the city’s police force, along with a Nebraska State trooper, who entered at 12:05 p.m. and encountered Jones.
Vanderheiden and the trooper ordered him to drop the rifle more than 20 times.
Jones refused, saying three times, “Come on!” After Jones said “I’ll kill you,” Vanderheiden fired one round, striking and killing Jones.
Mental health experts say that most people with mental illness are not violent. They are far more likely to be victims of violent crime than perpetrators, and access to firearms is a big part of the problem.
“If he wanted to hurt anybody, he had time to. This was really, in my mind, suicide by cop,” Derksen said. “I don’t think there was any intention in his mind that he actually thought he was going to harm anybody at any given time even though his actions did traumatize people.”
Police said that Jones obtained the weapon just four day earlier at a Cabela’s sporting goods store.
Vanderheiden was immediately placed on paid administrative leave per department policy.
State law requires that a grand jury is convened when someone dies while being apprehended. And once the investigation is complete, the case will be presented to the jury, police said.