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Lincoln officer still in 'extremely critical condition,' police chief says

Lincoln officer still in 'extremely critical condition,' police chief says

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Mario Herrera, the Lincoln Police officer who was shot last week while serving a warrant, remains in "extremely critical condition" after undergoing two additional surgeries Sunday, Chief Jeff Bliemeister said Monday morning.

Bliemeister said he spoke to Herrera's family members in depth, and they told him the additional surgeries were focused on controlling bleeding in his abdomen.

Herrera's family told him that doctors expressed optimism but cautioned that Herrera remains in extremely critical condition.

"The fight for his life is continuing," Bliemeister said.

In an update on Herrera's CaringBridge page, Melissa Wood, his sister-in-law, said the surgeries done Sunday showed "Mario's liver needs more time to hopefully heal before any decisions are made on next steps. The doctors would like his body to continue to rest for the next several days as his system works to balance itself. He is still critically ill and in need of all your prayers."

Bliemeister said the fact that Herrera survived the shooting was a testament to the fact that he received trauma care quickly.

He said that because of the potential danger involved with the warrant that was being served at a residence near 33rd and Vine streets Wednesday, police had Lincoln Fire & Rescue personnel on scene "in close proximity."

After Herrera was shot, there was an almost immediate response from paramedics, who worked on Herrera before transporting him to Bryan West Campus.

Bliemeister expressed thanks to both Lincoln Fire & Rescue and Bryan Health for their work on Herrera, who was transferred to Nebraska Medicine in Omaha on Thursday.

Lancaster County Sheriff Terry Wagner, whose department is investigating the shooting, said the investigation is "continuing pretty full-speed," but he had no update Monday morning other than to say "quite a few" interviews took place over the weekend.

According to court records, investigators went inside an apartment at 3255 Vine St., where Felipe Vazquez's family lives, and found the 17-year-old in a locked bedroom and tried to talk him out.

Members of the Metro Area Fugitive Task Force, the department's gang unit and the criminal division had gone there after getting information that Vazquez — who was wanted for second-degree assault in connection with Edward Varejcka's stabbing death in March — was there.

At the apartment, Bliemeister said they had been negotiating with Vazquez for nearly half an hour when Vazquez and 19-year-old Orion Ross broke the front window and jumped out.

Herrera, a 23-year veteran who Bliemeister said was there in a number of capacities, including working as a translator, was shot as Vazquez and Ross fled the residence.

Wagner said last week that evidence showed Vazquez fired the shot that hit Herrera.

Ross was taken into custody within minutes, while Vazquez was apprehended later after he entered a home in the 300 block of North 34th Street.

Both are in jail being held on $1 million bond.

Herrera, a plainclothes investigator, was not wearing a ballistic vest.

Bliemeister did not say why Herrera was not wearing a vest, but said the subject "will definitely be something that we look at again in the future."

He said support from the community for Herrera and his family has been "just incredible."

The amount of money donated to a GoFundMe page set up by Wood had more than doubled in the past 48 hours, from less than $30,000 Saturday afternoon, to more than $63,000 as of Monday night.

LPD said on its Twitter account that Chopsticks Chinese Cuisine at 70th and A streets donated 50% of its sales from Saturday, which totaled nearly $4,000.

People who live in the neighborhood where Herrera and his family live are putting blue ribbons on trees and mailboxes to show support as well.

Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.

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