Nebraska investigator passes away following August shooting while serving warrant

Nebraska investigator passes away following August shooting while serving warrant
Officer Mario Herrera was shot serving a warrant in Lincoln on August 26. (Source: (Lincoln Police))

LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - A heartbreaking update to an officer involved shooting in Lincoln nearly two weeks ago, as loved ones shared that Investigator Luis “Mario” Herrera has passed away.

Family members shared the devastating news on Monday that Investigator Herrera had died.

“It is with a very heavy heart that I have to pass on devastating news to all of you. At approximately 3:30 this morning, Mario died. Carrie and his 4 amazing children were able to be with him. I am at a loss for words as we try to process this. Please pray for Carrie, his kids and our entire family.”

Lincoln Police confirmed the passing of Investigator Herrera Monday morning, as the department grieves for their fellow officer.“The Lincoln Police Department is devastated by the loss of one of our most outstanding police officers. Mario was an exceptional investigator, a selfless teammate, and a tireless public servant. Empathetic, kind, and utterly committed to serving victims and protecting his community, Mario was an exemplary human being who just happened to be a Lincoln police officer.”

Investigator Herrera was receiving care at University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha and on Sunday night, his loved ones asked for prayers, saying he was gravely ill.

For days, Herrera had been fighting for his life undergoing a number of surgeries after being shot in the torso while serving a warrant on August 26 near 33rd and Vine Streets in connection to the March homicide of Edward Varejcka.

Since learning of Herrera’s death, loved ones, friends and many in the Lincoln community have changed their profile pictures on social media to honor Officer Herrera, which included his badge number.

Lincoln police officers will be draping their badges to honor his sacrifice and memory. A press conference is scheduled for Tuesday at 8:45 a.m. You can watch it live on 1011now.com.

Officer, father, husband, friend:

Investigator Herrera was a 23-year-veteran with Lincoln Police Department, a father of four, a devoted husband and in the pew every Sunday for mass at St. Teresa Catholic Church.

Friends described him as very patient, a kind considerate person and an officer who had a tremendous smile. They said he was a man who loved God, his family, his country and his community.

“He’s a great father to his kids, a great husband to his wife, they’re just a wonderful family,” said Tim Brox a family friend.

Community support:

Following the shooting, prayer and rosary services were held where pews were filled with people offering their love and support to the Herrera family.

Investigator Herrera’s initial surgeries used more than 130 units of blood and in response, the Nebraska Community Blood Bank held blood drives to help stabilize supplies.

Family friends set up a fund for the Herrera family at Liberty First Credit Union, as well as a GoFundMe account, to help with the medical costs and traveling to be at Officer Herrera’s bedside in Omaha. As of Monday morning, more than $103,000 has been raised through the GoFundMe account.

The community as a whole showing their love for Officer Herrera, Chopsticks Chinese Cuisine held a fundraiser where they gave a $3,999 check to the Lincoln Police Department.

CHI Health St. Elizabeth pitched in to help Officer Herrera with a free-will donation drive with produce. CHI Health said Officer Herrera at one time worked as a security guard for the hospital system.

Wednesday August 26th:

Court paperwork has provided additional details about what led up to the shooting of Officer Herrera.

According to arresting documents, authorities were inside a home near 33rd and Vine Street, talking with Felipe Vazquez. Vazquez was wanted in connection to a murder.

The document said he was behind a locked door and negotiations lasted about 25 minutes. That’s when Vazquez and another man, Orion Ross, broke out a back window. Moments later, investigators believe Vazquez fired three shots, hitting Herrera in the torso.

Also in those documents, Ross, who was arrested just minutes after, accused of saying, “If I had a gun, I wouldn’t have stopped.”

The gun used was reported stolen on July 12, and the person who reported that theft is related to Ross’s mother.

Vazquez and Ross are both still in the Lancaster County Jail. They’ve been charged with felony escape. The Lancaster County Attorney will determine additional charges based on the investigation.

LPD fallen officers:

Their mission is to protect and serve, according to the City of Lincoln, Nebraska, six Lincoln Police officers have died in the line of duty.

  • Captain Charles E. Hall died on March 31, 1917 in a motor vehicle accident near 33rd and Adams.
  • Special Duty Patrolman Marion F. Marshall died September 9, 1932, two days after being shot by a suspect in the alley exit on 15th Street.
  • Officer Richard E. Leyden died on September 26, 1949 of injuries suffered in a traffic accident on 16th St. between G and H where his police motorcycle collided with a car.
  • Detective Lieutenant Frank H. Soukup died on December 16, 1966. Lt. Soukup and two other detectives went to 2413 P Street on a forgery investigation and encountered five suspects. One suspect produced a handgun and shot Lt. Soukup.
  • Detective Paul B. Whitehead died on August 10, 1967 after stopping a suspicious car near 38th and O Street. The car was occupied by three escapees from the Indiana State Prison. One of the suspects produced a sawed off shotgun and shot Det. Whitehead.
  • Officer George W. Welter died on February 9, 1968. Officer Welter’s police motorcycle collided with a car at 27th and W Streets as he responded with lights and siren to an emergency call.

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts has directed all flags be flown at half-staff in honor Herrera starting on Monday and remaining until Friday.

“Susanne and I were devastated to learn of the passing of Investigator Mario Herrera,” Ricketts said. “Officer Herrera’s service and sacrifice will never be forgotten. I also want to thank people across the state who stepped up to support the Herrera family in the midst of this terrible tragedy. From holding prayer vigils to donating blood, the community’s response was powerful and inspiring. Now more than ever, it is critical for all of us to come together and support the men and women who put on the uniform and risk their lives every day to help keep our communities safe.”