Omaha police have identified the 54-year-old man killed in an officer-involved shooting Wednesday after the man cut three people at Siena-Francis House homeless shelter.
Police said Stephen L. Caldwell was shot and killed after he opened a locked door inside an office at the Siena-Francis House, 1401 N. 18th St., where he had taken a woman hostage.
The woman told detectives that Caldwell had come into her office about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday and told her he had an issue with a female shelter employee regarding property. The woman said Caldwell returned to her office about 4:30 p.m. and said he had stabbed two female employees, one of whom was the woman he had mentioned earlier.
The woman said Caldwell appeared paranoid, and she could see he had a bloody knife in his hand. Caldwell closed and locked the door behind him and barricaded it with several chairs. He then handcuffed the woman to her office desk.
Police were called and told that a man had cut two people and ran into a building. A caller then told police that the man was holding a box cutter to a woman’s throat.
Police arrived at the shelter at 4:34 p.m. Officers stood outside the woman’s office door, trying to talk Caldwell into opening it. The officers asked her through the door if she was in danger and Caldwell told her to reply “Yes,” which she did.
The officers called for a hostage negotiator at 4:37 p.m. They then called for a K-9 handler at 4:39 p.m.
After several minutes, Caldwell opened the door and ran back to the desk, where he retrieved the knife and placed it to the woman’s neck, placing her between himself and the police.
The woman told investigators that officers entered the room with their guns drawn and ordered Caldwell multiple times to “put it down” and to “drop the knife.” The officers then shot Caldwell at 4:45 p.m.
The woman in the office and the other two women who were cut was taken to Nebraska Medical Center. None of the injuries to the women was believed to be life-threatening, police said.
Four officers have been placed on administrative leave while the case is being investigated by the Omaha Police Department’s Officer-Involved Investigations Team and the Nebraska State Patrol. Body-camera footage showed multiple officers fired their guns.
Neither the officers involved in the incident nor the women injured Wednesday were identified Thursday by Omaha police.
Officials noted that placing the officers on administrative leave is standard procedure after an officer-involved shooting.
Investigators have interviewed several witnesses at the Siena-Francis House. One said she was with Caldwell earlier in the day when he told her he was upset about a property dispute with Siena-Francis House staff. The woman said Caldwell told her he had stolen a knife from a nearby Family Dollar Store and showed it to her. She described it as a large kitchen knife. The witness also said Caldwell told her “he wasn’t going to stop until the cops shot him.”
Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said in the press release that the investigation is continuing. “It is clear the officers were put in a situation where they were forced to use deadly force to save a life,” he said. “The officers responded heroically and in a manner consistent with their training.”
Per state law, a grand jury will be convened to investigate the in-custody death.
Court records show that Caldwell has a lengthy criminal history and has spent two stints in prison.
In 1997 and again in 1999, Caldwell was convicted of third-degree assault of a police officer. He was sentenced to one year to 18 months on the first occasion and 20 months to five years on the second.
Records also show that Caldwell was convicted of fourth-offense drunken driving in 2000 and was sentenced to 18 months to four years in prison. He also was sentenced earlier that year to one year in jail after being convicted of making terroristic threats.
Last month, Caldwell was sentenced in Douglas County to 16 days in jail for disorderly conduct. Other misdemeanor convictions on Caldwell’s record included assault and battery, driving with a suspended license and shoplifting.
World-Herald staff writer Kevin Cole contributed to this report.