It was bad enough when a gang member was accused of shooting an Omaha, Nebraska, police officer. But it gets worse.
Omaha taxpayers will foot the bill for the $239,670.63 hospital bill for John Ezell Jr.
Ezell, 36, was shot several times by police in September after he began the shootout by firing at Officer Ken Fortune, according to the Omaha World-Herald. The gunplay was instigated by a traffic stop.
Ezell spent a month in the hospital after being shot. During the time he was treated, he was a prisoner being held on $3 million bail. He has been charged with attempted murder, first-degree assault of an officer and three weapons charges.
“I’m sure there’s going to be a number of council members who will hold their nose and vote for it,” said City Council President Ben Gray, according to the Omaha World-Herald. “I’m going to be one of them. We’re obligated to do it.”
Assistant City Attorney Jeff Bloom said a 1998 Nebraska Supreme Court case makes it clear that when an individual cannot pay his or her medical bill, the city has to do it. If an individual has insurance it can lower the city’s bill, but that does not help in his case. Ezell had no insurance.
“Since the medical need arose from an incident in which there was a shooting (involving Omaha police), that unfortunately makes us liable,” Bloom said.
Bloom said it could have been worse. Ezell’s bill at Nebraska Medical Center was actually $479,341.25, but the hospital agreed to accept half of that from the city in payment.
That was small comfort to residents interviewed by WOWT, who objected to the city having to pay the bill at all.
“I don’t think it’s right. First of all, he wasn’t in police custody. They were trying to apprehend him. Why should we have to foot the bill for a criminal?” said Steve Bertagni, a business and homeowner.
Dan Emsick, who also owns a home and business, said Ezell should pay his own bill.
“I know it’s part of the legal system that we have to do that, that’s how the law is written. But I think when he’s held accountable for his actions he should have to pay it back,” Emsick said.
Yesterday John Ezell Jr attempted to kill Gang Officer Kenneth Fortune.
John Ezell is on fed prob. for firearm violations and is a known gang member. He will be booked for two counts of Attempted Murder, Pos. of F/A by Prohibited Person, and two counts of Weapon Use Felony. pic.twitter.com/nY4FNh6BiI
— Omaha POA (@omahaPOA) September 12, 2018
The incident in which Ezell was arrested began when Fortune pulled over the car in which Ezell was riding. Ezell opened the passenger door and shot at Fortune, hitting him in the shoulder and in his microphone.
At the time of his arrest, Ezell had a blood alcohol level of 0.333, police said.
Fortune was in the hospital a few days and returned to work after a month.
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