Rising Number of Westroads Mall Shootings Impacts Westside Community


Image courtesy of Omaha Scanner’s Twitter

Ambulances parked outside Westroads Shopping Mall after the September shooting.

Two people have died and three others have been injured in shoot-outs at Westroads Shopping Mall, within the past year.

During an altercation in March, a police officer was severely injured after being shot in the head. The suspect was taken into custody after a freeway chase. 

The second shooting this year, in April, occurred after a group of people were cut in the line for Auntie Anne’s Pretzels. The ensuing fight resulted in the death of Trequez Swift and injury of Ja’Keya Veland. 

In the most recent shooting, on Sept. 18, Franco Vasquez was killed and his female companion was injured. 

Sophomore Theresa Bochnicek, a frequent mall customer, said that, despite the recent violence, she still regularly goes to the mall. 

“It might be kind of dangerous,” Bochnicek said. “But most of the good stores are there so I keep going.”

Regardless of the relaxed attitude of many students, the fact remains that these incidents seem to be on the rise in Omaha. School Resource Officer Jeff Kilgore said that gun violence always increases around this time of year. 

“Gang activity kind of has a shelf life in Omaha,” Kilgore said. “It’s usually when the weather’s nice… the weather’s about ready to turn, so they want to get all their unfinished business in… then in the cold months, everybody goes back to their thing. In other words, these are always retaliation shootings– if a gang shoots another gang. That’s why there’s always an uptick in violence this time of year.” 

Kilgore also said that Westroads was a hotspot for this kind of violence because kids don’t really have another place to hash things out. 

“Kids don’t really have a place to go and it’s a good meeting location,” Kilgore said. “But the violence doesn’t start at Westroads. It’s a carryover from somewhere else in the city, or, you know, two rival gangs happen to meet up there, and that’s where you get your issues.”

To stay safe when at Westroads, or other public places, Kilgore advised students to be vigilant. 

“The best thing to do is obviously let your parents know where you’re at,” Kilgore said. “Have a phone on you, and have it charged up. Go in packs… and if you see trouble, I mean if your ‘spidey-senses’  start telling you that this is probably not a safe place, then just leave.”