Omaha police purge DNA samples from controversial 2004 sweep

Police have destroyed DNA samples collected years ago from several black men in a controversial 2004 sweep in Omaha now that a suspect in a series of rapes has been charged.

Officials told the Omaha World-Herald that they destroyed all samples taken as part of the DNA sweep.

Dick Davis II, who now lives in Georgia, was among the men from whom police collected DNA in 2004 as police desperately sought to solve the rapes. Davis voluntarily allowed police to swab his cheek when they came knocking on his door, but he said he felt coerced to comply.

The sweep led to a state law that requires police to notify innocent people in writing that they have not been implicated by their sample and that police purge DNA samples and any identifying information from their records.

Davis contacted Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine in June after learning that Brandon Weathers, who is already serving a prison sentence for rape, was charged with the series of four rapes in Omaha in the early 2000s. Kleine then set in motion events to ensure that the DNA was destroyed and that all the men from whom it was collected were notified.

Davis said he's pleased with the news but criticized the former Omaha police chief, Thomas Warren, who oversaw the DNA sweep.

"For something like that to happen under a black man's watch, the first African-American police chief of Omaha, was unacceptable," Davis said.

Warren defended the sweep, saying it was not random, but a targeted sweep authorized by a warrant issued by a judge. It was intended to catch a rapist who "would attack more women if he weren't caught," he said.

"We would have used any lawful means to identify and apprehend the perpetrator," Warren said.

In the end, it wasn't DNA from the sweep that led police to Weathers, but DNA taken from him by prison officials under a state law that requires anyone convicted of a felony or other specified offense to submit to DNA sampling.


Information from: Omaha World-Herald,