A Sheridan County grand jury has found no criminal wrongdoing in the death of an assault suspect killed by a sheriff’s deputy in a Rushville church during services this past April, but the panel did make 6 recommendations to county officials.
32-year old Clarence Leading Fighter was shot twice by a Sheridan County Sheriff’s deputy during the Palm Sunday morning mass April 14 at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Rushville, ending a brief chase. No church-goers were injured.
The grand jury called by the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office met from Aug 20-22, interviewed 28 witnesses and reviewed 591 exhibits. Under Nebraska law, the grand jury report will be available for public review when it is completed.
The Nebraska State Patrol conducted the initial investigation into the officer-involved shooting and concluded the deputy used deadly force to protect himself and the parishioners from potential serious harm.
The incident began about 10:20 am to a Rushville residence where they found a victim with a broken arm. Father Joseph K Joseph, the priest at Immaculate Conception, told KNEB Radio that about 11:00 a man, later identified as Leading Fighter, burst into the church chased by a deputy.
Father Joseph said he then heard multiple shots and that parishioners told him Leading Fighter had a knife in his hand, although the priest didn’t see one. Leading Fighter died later at a hospital as a result of his wounds.
Native American activists described Leading Fighter’s death as being murdered trying to reach a place where he felt he would be safe, and the Lakota People’s Law Project has called for a federal investigation into his death.