Published Saturday, February 1, 2014 at 1:00 am / Updated at 1:37 pm
police work, witnesses
World-Herald editorial: Doing right by Payton

Omaha police wisely cast a wide net in their search for whoever killed 5-year-old Payton Benson.

Hardworking officers beat the pavement. Talked to neighbors. Examined data from shot sensors. Sifted through intelligence on gangs and gang activity. Even combed social media websites for evidence.

They say what they found online helped them make a series of arrests in Payton’s death.

But some troubling Facebook responses by others to those arrests show why solving local gun violence is so difficult.

The postings revealed the kind of warped thinking that investigators often complain about privately — a “don’t snitch” mentality that ends up protecting gang and gun violence in parts of Omaha.

“Bro, keep ya head up ... .”

“That’s sooooo crazy!!!! (Expletives) loyalty ain’t 100 (percent) no more.”

“Free all them.”

Glance again at the smile of the little girl shot dead at breakfast by errant gunfire. How could anyone think it wrong to come forward and do the right thing by her?

Police often have a hard time identifying suspects without witnesses who are willing to help investigators. That’s one major reason why they say solving many gang-related cases is so difficult.

That’s why something has to change.

“These arrests are the product of a community that has stepped forward to assist law enforcement, coupled with gang and homicide detectives who have worked tirelessly to solve this case,” Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said after this week’s arrests.

In this case, people cooperated.

In part because the victim was an innocent. In part because she had claims to bagels and Cheerios, not Bloods or Crips.

And in part because increasing numbers of Omahans believe it’s time this stops.

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