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Officer Convicted of Killing Omaha Native Now Chief

Officer Convicted of Killing Omaha Native Now Chief

By Jake Wasikowski. CREATED Mar 28, 2013

A police officer in Arkansas shot and killed Omaha native, James Ahern.  Prosecutors charged him with a crime and the officer served time.  But now that same police officer is holding a prominent title: chief and an Omaha family is furious.   

For years, Stephen and Barbara Postert have lived with the fact that a police officer killed their brother.  In January 2010, James Ahern was chased by Corporal Coleman "Duke" Brackney on a highway road in Northwest Arkansas.  Dash cam video shows the gruesome situation unfold as Ahern is shot 5 times, and when he raises his arm an apparent fatal shot was fired.  Ahern was not armed.  Coleman pleaded guilty to Misdemeanor Negligent Homicide, and served one month in jail.

"He had some problems and brushes with the law, but nothing he has done justifies the taking of his life,” said Ahern’s Brother-in-Law, Stephen Postert. "Having a police officer who's a loose cannon and has no control over himself enough to stop himself from shooting somebody unjustifiably so should never be a police officer."

Brackney has now been hired as the Chief of Police in Sulphur Springs, Arkansas just 3 years later.

"You put the uniform back on and you look at yourself in the mirror, and you think, I’m back.  It's a good feeling," Brackney told KFSM.

Though Brackney was fired from the Bella Vista PD in Arkansas, but retained his credentials.  A state board ruled he could serve again as an officer even though Bella Vista's investigation concluded Brackney violated policy.  It indicates Brackney had no reason to initially pursue Ahern, and Ahern's car never posed a danger to the officer or gave him reason to fire his weapon.

"There has been nothing said by him that shows any remorse that he's killed somebody,” Postert described. "An individual's been murdered and the individual that did it is being allowed to be in control of people's lives again and he should not be."

The Arkansas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training says if Brackney was convicted of a felony his certification would be taken away, but for a misdemeanor it isn't automatic.  The commission says it was a judgment call to not decertify Brackney even with the Bella Vista police policy violations.