Suit tossed in active shooter drill woman believed was real

Mar 29, 2023, 4:28 PM

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by an employee of Catholic Charities of Omaha who said she suffered physical and emotional injuries during an active shooter drill involving actors smeared in fake blood and a man firing blanks from a semiautomatic handgun.

Douglas County District Court Judge Timothy Burns ruled that Workers’ Compensation Court should decide Sandra Lopez’s claims against Catholic Charities over the drill last year at the organization’s headquarters, the Omaha World-Herald reported Wednesday.

Lopez said in the lawsuit that administrators did not warn employees that a drill was planned on May 19, 2022. One administrator who knew it was staged told her, “It is a shooting” as they ran out of the building together, according to the lawsuit.

Lopez said she hurt her back while fleeing and also has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Catholic Charities sought to have the lawsuit dismissed, contending it should be decided in Workers’ Compensation Court, which has jurisdiction over accidental work-related injuries.

Lopez’s attorney, Tom White, argued that Catholic Charities intentionally injured Lopez and other employees by not telling them the drill was staged. He said an exception to state laws should be made when an employer intentionally harms employees.

But Burns granted Catholic Charities’ motion to dismiss last week, saying Nebraska laws and court precedent established that Workers’ Compensation Court is the exclusive remedy in such cases.

White said he intends to appeal the ruling.

Burns said he agreed the alleged facts show Catholic Charities had a “specific intent to injure” Lopez. But he cited a 2013 Nebraska Supreme Court ruling that dismissed a lawsuit filed by the family of a grain bin worker who died because of criminal negligence by his employer.

The state Supreme Court said the man’s death was an accident, despite the employer’s negligence. It said any change to allow exceptions for intentional acts would have to be made by the Legislature.

The man who was hired by Catholic Charities to stage the drill, John Channels, of Omaha, was charged in August with five counts of making terroristic threats and one weapons count. Channels was not named in the lawsuit.

The incident unfolded when Channels showed up at Omaha Catholic Charities firing blanks and staging “victims” who appeared to have been wounded or killed, police said. The charity had hired him to test its workers’ preparedness for such an attack.

Police said the charity paid Channels $2,500 to carry out the mock shooting and went along with his request not to inform employees beforehand.

National News

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, second right, steps off a U.S. Air F...

Associated Press

US ambassador visits Haiti to meet new leaders and Kenyan police helping to curb gang violence

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations traveled to Haiti on Monday to meet leaders of the new transitional government and the Kenyan police who are the vanguard of a U.N.-backed force meant to help the country’s national police curb widespread gang violence. A senior U.S. administration official said Ambassador Linda […]

6 minutes ago

FILE - Hunter Biden arrives at federal court, June 3, 2024, in Wilmington, Del. Hunter Biden has dr...

Associated Press

Hunter Biden drops lawsuit against Fox News over explicit images featured in streaming series

NEW YORK (AP) — Hunter Biden has dropped a lawsuit accusing Fox News of illegally publishing explicit images of him as part of a streaming series. An attorney for the president’s son filed a voluntary dismissal notice on Sunday in federal court in New York City, three weeks after the lawsuit was filed. It wasn’t […]

27 minutes ago

Associated Press

Nashville-area GOP House race and Senate primaries top Tennessee’s primary ballot

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A first-term Tennessee congressman backed by former President Donald Trump will face a Republican challenger who calls the lawmaker ineffective, a contest that is among the top races in the state’s August primary election. The primary will also cement who will be the Democratic contender in the fall matchup for the […]

35 minutes ago

Associated Press

One teen is killed and eight others are wounded in shooting at Milwaukee park party, police say

MILWAUKEE (AP) — A 17-year-old girl was killed and eight other teenagers were wounded early Monday in a shooting at a Milwaukee park where dozens of young people had gathered for a party, police said. Officers and first responders found the girl dead and eight other shooting victims at Dineen Park on the city’s west […]

42 minutes ago

Associated Press

Secret Service director says Trump assassination attempt was biggest agency ‘failure’ in decades

WASHINGTON (AP) — The director of the Secret Service says the assassination attempt of former President Donald Trump was the agency’s “most significant operational failure” in decades. Director Kimberly Cheatle told lawmakers Monday during a congressional hearing: “On July 13, we failed.” Cheatle says she takes full responsibility for the agency’s missteps related to the […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

US investigating some Jeep and Ram vehicles after getting complaints of abrupt engine stalling

DETROIT (AP) — U.S. auto safety regulators are investigating complaints that some Ram pickup trucks and Jeep Wagoneer SUVs can lose power, shift into park and apply the emergency brake. The probe announced Monday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration covers about 150,000 vehicles made by Stellantis from the 2022 model year. All have […]

1 hour ago

Suit tossed in active shooter drill woman believed was real