Former Omaha police officer honored for helping stop killer -
Published Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 1:07 pm / Updated at 6:18 pm
Former Omaha police officer honored for helping stop killer

It's not in Virgil Patlan's blood to sit idle.

Last June, six years after retiring following 25 years with the Omaha Police Department, he proved that.

Patlan was honored Thursday for his actions during a series of South Omaha shootings on June 15, 2013. While playing with his two toddler grandchildren in his front yard near 33rd and E Streets, Patlan heard gunshots and screams, and then watched the shooting suspect walk right past him.

“When I saw his eyes, I knew something was wrong,” Patlan said.

Patlan followed the suspect in a car — down Burlington Street, left on 34th Street, another left onto F Street — while his wife, Rebecca, provided medical attention to their next-door-neighbor, using what Spanish she knew to communicate with the non-English speaker.

Patlan continued to follow the suspect until Officer Coral Walker showed up. The guman, Jorge Abraham Zarazua-Rubio, fired multiple shots at the police cruiser before Walker fatally shot him.

In all, Zarazua-Rubio, 25, shot four people, killing two.

Omaha Police Chief Schmaderer said the actions of every officer involved that day were flawless — carried out swiftly and safely in extremely dangerous circumstances.

“I've never been so proud to be the police chief of this city,” Schmaderer said.

Schmaderer called Patlan's actions “heroic” before presenting him with a plaque at the Southeast Precinct that was packed with his family, colleagues and friends. Patlan's wife wiped away tears as the room silently listened to the police dispatch audio and later laughed at a slideshow featuring her husband's life in photos.

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert recognized Patlan's many roles as a husband, father, grandfather and role model.

“Virgil is proud of Omaha and his South Omaha roots, and I'm proud to call Virgil my friend,” Stothert said.

Patlan, born and raised in South Omaha, retired in 2007 and now serves as a board member at Victory Boxing Club, a faith-based nonprofit aimed at giving Omaha youth a positive environment in which to practice boxing.

“South Omaha is my comfort zone,” he said. “I accept this award on behalf of South Omaha. I'm not going to forget this.”

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