Test System

Sheriff's Office

Curfew Arrests C0003797

Date: June 15, 2020
For More Information: Terry T. Wagner, twagner@lancaster.ne.gov


June 15, 2020


On Sunday, May 31, 2020, Lancaster County Sheriff’s Deputies made several arrests of protesters who were in violation of the Mayor’s curfew.

For over 40 minutes the protest organizers were repeatedly told they needed to leave or risk being arrested for violating the Mayor’s curfew. Failure to pursue an aggressive arrest strategy the night before resulted in tens of millions of dollars in property damage to neighboring businesses, gunshots fired at officers and the Hall of Justice and bottles filled with gasoline and human excrement thrown at officers. I appreciate the Mayor instituting the curfew as a tool to prevent that same level of violence.

At approximately 8:45 P.M. arrests of protesters began. Video footage from Ch. 10/11 TV showed deputy sheriffs taking several people into custody. From the perspective of the Channel 10/11 cameras it appeared a woman was pulled to the ground by her hair. It looked bad to the viewers and I voiced that same sentiment in an interview with Ch. 10/11 on Tues. Shame on me, and shame on all of the people who watched the video, passed judgement on what they thought they saw, prompting emails and calls demanding the deputy be fired for his actions.

As I told everyone who called or emailed, we have a review process that is followed for any use of force incident. This incident is no different. I reviewed the video from our unmanned aerial system’s perspective, saw what really happened and was ashamed of myself for passing judgement too quickly. Just as I should not blindly support the actions of my deputies, neither should I be too quick to condemn their actions without proof.

As deputies approached a group of protesters, several left the area and several were arrested. The deputy viewed in the Ch. 10/11 told several protesters to leave. What the viewers and I didn’t know was the “F--- You” response from the protesters to the deputy which does not indicate he was going to gain voluntary compliance. He then announced to a woman she was under arrest as he reached for her right shoulder. She turned away and the deputy tried to grab her left shoulder where her hair was. This woman was never arrested, nor did she go to the ground and friends ushered her away. Almost simultaneously, another woman was being arrested by other officers, fell to the ground and was handcuffed with assistance from the first deputy and led off. Unless the incident was viewed from another angle, you would not be able to tell the first woman was not pulled to the ground by her hair by the deputy. In fact, she did not face any consequences at all for violating the Mayor’s curfew.

Effecting an arrest for someone resisting or trying to evade arrest is not pretty. Quick, decisive action during the arrest process is necessary to prevent injury to the arrestee and the officers. This isn’t like a game of tag, where the person tagged is told they are out, and walks over to a patrol vehicle to be transported to jail. The decision to make arrests falls on me as the Sheriff and was made to avoid the property damage and rioting that had occurred the previous night. None of the incident commanders on scene that night thought the deputies and officers tasked with enforcing the curfew violations would simply be able to take a violator by the hand and lead them to a patrol vehicle. We all knew some degree of force would be necessary in making these arrests. It should be obvious the force used to attempt to arrest this woman was insufficient, because she was able to evade arrest. Our policy is based upon the United States Supreme Court decision Graham v Connor which said "The "reasonableness" of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight."

So if our policy governing the Use of Force was followed by deputies on May 28th and did not result in disciplinary action, why would it be treated any differently on May 31st?

The Use of Force on May 31st was lawful and followed our policy. I’m trying to figure out how to tell our employees to be decisive in making arrests to limit injuries to arrestees and deputies, but don’t let it appear to be aggressive. If that Use of Force appeared aggressive, that’s on me. Below is aerial footage of the incident.

Terry T. Wagner

Lancaster County Sheriff



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Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office
575 South 10th Street
Lincoln, NE 68508