Teen accused of shooting Lincoln officer charged with murder

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A teenager accused of shooting a police officer two weeks ago in a Nebraska city was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder one day after the officer died, authorities said.

The charges were upgraded against Felipe Vazquez, 17, in the Aug. 26 shooting of Lincoln police investigator Luis “Mario” Herrera, who died on Monday.

The teenager has already been charged with second-degree assault of a peace officer.

Herrera, a plainclothes officer, was shot as he sought to serve an arrest warrant on Vazquez in the March stabbing death of 36-year-old Edward Varejcka. Authorities said they have tied at least three people to Varejcka’s death.

News of Herrera’s shooting and death drew an outpouring of support from the community. On Monday, Omaha police helped transport his body back to Lincoln from the hospital where he had been treated. The procession drew large crowds of people, who honored Hererra by standing along roadsides and atop highway overpasses in Omaha and Lincoln.

“Lincoln is a city of compassion and kindness, and in the coming days, weeks and months, we will do our best to heal from this grief together,” Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird said at Tuesday’s police news conference.

Assistant Lincoln Police Chief Brian Jackson described Herrera, a 23-year police veteran, as one of the city’s “most dedicated and selfless police officers” who played an important role in solving burglaries, robberies, assaults and homicides. He said Herrera was also active in his church, coached youth sports and mentored younger police officers. He leaves behind behind a wife and four children.

“Devastated does not begin to describe the gaping hole left in our hearts, our police department and our community,” Jackson said.

Herrera is the first Lincoln police officer killed in the line of duty since 1968, and the seventh in the city’s history.

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