Neb. police officer dies following August shooting while serving warrant

Neb. police officer dies following August shooting while serving warrant
Police Investigator Mario Herrera was shot serving a warrant in Lincoln on Aug. 26. (Source: Lincoln police via KOLN)

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,” the department said in a statement.

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 him, which included his badge number.

Lincoln police officers will be draping their badges to honor his sacrifice and memory.

Officer, father, husband, friend

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.

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.”

Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird also released a statement on the Herrera’s passing:

“Sadness does not begin to describe fully our community’s sense of loss with the passing of Investigator Mario Herrera. Our hearts are with his wife, Carrie, and their four children, and we remain forever grateful for their family’s profound sacrifice in service to keeping our community safe.”

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 Herrera’s bedside in Omaha. As of Monday morning, more than $103,000 has been raised.

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 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.

Aug. 26

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

According to arresting documents, authorities were inside a home 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, was 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.

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