Omaha, NE.—A key state lawmaker is still pushing for a special grand jury investigation into a deadly chase and crash first reported exclusively by News Channel Nebraska.
Despite Gov. Pete Ricketts recent decision to fire the head of the Nebraska State Patrol, suspend six subordinates and turn the results of an ongoing investigation over to the FBI and federal prosecutors, State Sen. Ernie Chambers tells News Channel Nebraska justice demands a separate state probe.
Chambers, who says Attorney General Jeff Sessions is “pro-police,” is not convinced the Justice Department will take a legitimate look at the case.
Chambers also says he writing a letter to Ricketts noting that at first the governor dismissed Chamber’s criticism of the patrol’s handling of 32-year-old Antoine LaDeaux’s western Nebraska death last October.
As NCN first reported, the Nebraska State Trooper involved in the Sheridan County chase changed his story and set off a feud within the patrol.
In an in house e-mail, Internal Affairs Lt. Dennis Leonard—who has since retired—clearly voiced his frustration.
“I never thought this likely but I must say that I no longer believe we are capable of objectively investigating our own,” wrote Leonard, supporting sources who have told News Channel Nebraska that several members of the patrol were involved in a cover-up.
Initially a spokesman for the governor defended the patrol telling NCN: “This matter went to a grand jury, and the (Sheridan County) grand jury found the State Patrol’s actions were appropriate.”
Several days later, in the early stages of his office’s “review” of LaDeaux’s death— while announcing the firing of Superintendent Brad Rice— the governor’s position had clearly changed: “This review found interference into the internal investigation process of the State Patrol and violations of internal policies among other concerning issues at the highest levels of the agency’s leadership,” said Ricketts.
Chambers says in his formal request for a Lancaster County Grand Jury investigation— a request he expects to make as early as next week—he will list all the state laws that were broken. “The state has to do something,” says Chambers.
Ricketts has named Major Russ Stanczyk as Interim Superintendent during the search for Rice’s replacement.
To read NCN’s full investigation click here. To view the state trooper’s in-car camera video of the crash see the video above.