'Kerrie on': Omaha rallies around fallen police officer's newborn

Omaha Police Officer Kerrie Orozco, shown holding little Olivia Ruth and pictured with husband Hector and her two stepchildren. (Omaha Police Department)

Omaha Police Officer Kerrie Orozco, shown holding little Olivia Ruth and pictured with husband Hector and her two stepchildren. (Omaha Police Department)

Omaha lost a dedicated police officer and community leader this week, but Olivia Ruth lost even more - the mother she will never know.

“She was so excited to be a mother."

- Laurie McNeil, aunt of murdered Omaha police officer

As the family of Kerrie Orozco grieved for the 29-year-old, seven-year veteran following her death Wednesday in a shootout with a fugitive, the city's flags flew at half-staff, the police department rallied behing the simple phrase "Kerrie On," and donations poured in for Olivia Ruth, the baby Orozco had just given birth to prematurely. Orozco was working her last shift before going on maternity leave to be with her baby when a criminal's bullet struck her just above the bulletproof vest that might have saved her life.

“She was so excited to be a mother,” her aunt Laurie McNeil told Friday.

Olivia was born premature Feb. 17. Orozco was set to bring her home from the hospital Thursday and go on maternity leave. Wednesday’s tragic events changed all that.

“She had the bassinet all set up by the side of the bed,” McNeil said. “She just wanted to be ready.”

Orozco was part of a fugitive task force searching for convicted felon Marcus Wheeler. He was being sought for an earlier Omaha shooting. As they closed in on the suspect Wednesday afternoon, Wheeler, 26, opened fire.

Police said one of his bullets struck Orozco in the chest and exited her back. An inch lower and it would have struck her in her bullet-proof vest.

McNeil told she had a bad feeling when she looked at her phone Wednesday and saw a breaking news flash reporting an Omaha police officer had been shot.

“I immediately turned on the Internet and started watching,” the aunt said, choking back tears. “I was hoping to see her walk across the screen.”

As her deepest fears grew, McNeil sent Orozco a text asking, “Are you Ok?” She tried calling. She didn’t get an answer.

“Then they said it was a female,” McNeil said. “I knew it was her because I knew she would be right there in the middle of it.”

McNeil said when Olivia was born at 26 weeks, Orozco texted her a photo. The girl weighed a little over 2 pounds at birth. Now the baby is healthy and weighs 8 pounds and was to go home Friday to her father, Hector Orozco.

The police officer was planning to spend time with McNeil and her loved ones, especially the baby whose initials spell "ORO," gold in Spanish. 

“Our new lunch buddy,” Orozco said in the text to McNeil that accmpanied the photo.

“I can’t wait to meet her,” McNeil texted back.

Their first lunch date was going to be next week.

“Now she is going to be buried on her original due date,” McNeil said.

She said her niece always wanted to be a cop. “She was just a doer,” she said. “Whether it was church, 4-H, everything she was involved in, she gave 100 percent.”

She also said Orozco was a “very strong Catholic girl” who was always smiling.

“She was a saint,” McNeil said.

Orozco and her pals from the high school volleyball team called themselves the Wolf Pack.

Recently Orozco told the Wolf Pack in an e-mail her baby girl was tiny but a fighter, Jennifer Ploen, a member of the group, told the Omaha World Herald.

“It’s so hard to accept that Kerrie is gone,” Ploen said. “I am so happy she got those moments with her daughter.”

Police radio calls show police desperately trying to save Orozco’s life after she was shot.

"Help an officer 30th and Martin Avenue! Help an officer 30th and Martin Avenue! Officer down!" a male officer radios to dispatch."Get a squad here now!"

Orozco coached baseball for the North Omaha Boys and Girls Club and was a Special Olympics volunteer. She also took in rescue dogs and was a Girl Scout mentor.

Her family includes her husband Hector and two step-children, 6 and 7.

Omaha pastor Dave Gehrls called for a rally and prayer vigil Friday evening.

“We are calling the community together to grieve and pray for our city, our police, the Orozco family, the neighborhood and all families affected by this tragic situation,” he said .

The Omaha Police Department posted on Facebook a message from one of Orozco’s fellow officers, who coined the phrase "Kerrie On" and invoked a famous law enforcement verse called "Messages from a Fallen Officer, by Dan Marcou.

"My girl, my boy, know that you still give me joy," a passage reads. "Live your life as I did, unafraid."

“As I was reminiscing/mourning Kerrie with my OPD family this wonderful phrase came to our attention," the Omaha police officer wrote. "We must "Kerrie On" order to share her legacy and honor her as a hero.”

The funeral for Orozco will take place Tuesday at St. John's Catholic Church at Creighton University. Donations for her family are being taken by the Omaha Police Foundation and the Omaha Police Federal Credit Union.