OMAHA, Neb. – Gunfire erupted during a crowded party in a vacant house in Omaha early Saturday, leaving three people dead and five wounded, and witnesses refusing to help investigators, according to police.
As many as 50 people were in and around the small home when shots were fired "by multiple shooters" around 2 a.m., Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said. No arrests have been made, and police said they were confident the shootings were gang-related.
The vast majority of people at the scene refused to help police, the chief said during a news conference Saturday evening. He said he understood witnesses' fear but pleaded for them to come forward.
"Now that you are away from that scene and have opportunity to be away from any intimidation, I'm asking you for the sake of the community to contact law enforcement," Schmaderer said.
Police said 19-year-old JaKela Foster and 24-year-old Latecia Fox were declared dead at the scene, while 26-year-old Cameron Harris died several hours later.
Foster's mother, Kristina Young, waited for hours outside the small, tan house in the city's northeast side while investigators gathered evidence. She said she wasn't going to leave until the body of her daughter was taken away.
Young said her boyfriend got a call from an aunt shortly before 2 a.m. telling him there was a shooting that may have involved Foster, who had a 1-year-old son. She said a friend later called to say Foster had been shot.
Young said her daughter knew the person throwing the party. She said she asked her daughter not to go, knowing there would be drinking and worried there could be violence.
"I've been in Omaha long enough to know generally what happens at these parties," she said.
She said her daughter agreed and told her she was going elsewhere Friday night, but that she apparently went to the party anyway.
"To the person who pulled the trigger, I want to say it's just senseless. It just needs to stop. I now have a 1-year-old grandson that has no mother," Young said while fighting back tears.
Five other people who were wounded during the shootings. Schmaderer said they were in stable condition late Saturday afternoon, though other details weren't released.
Douglas County property records list the home as belonging to Alonzetta Stevenson. A phone number for Stevenson at the Parker Street address was disconnected.
Dorothy Wayne, who lives across the street from the home, said she and her husband were asleep when a shot passed through the wall of their front bedroom and lodged in the far wall. Neither was hurt.
"I just immediately hit the floor," Wayne said. "I'm just glad we weren't hurt."
Much of Omaha's violent crime happens in the area, but Wayne said she was surprised by the shootings because it's always been a quiet street.
"There are mostly old people on our block," she said.
Police arrested two people on suspicion of disorderly conduct at the hospital following the shooting, the Omaha World-Herald reported. Officers were called to the hospital after a disturbance among victims' relatives who had gathered at the hospital erupted.