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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (April 25, 1996)
rural sheriff erred
in murder inquiry
CENTRAL CITY (AP) —
Already facing a recall election,
Merrick County Sheriff Dan
Schneiderhcinznow faces a sec
ond $4 million lawsuit that
claims he failed to do his job
correctly in investigating a 1994
A federal lawsuit filed earlier
this month by Tom Branting,
who was initially charged in the
death of Jerry Carlson of Clarks,
accuses the sheri ff and county of
violating his civil rights.
In a suit filed April 11 in U.S.
District Court in Lincoln,
Branting claimed he was
wrongly arrested for political
gain during a sheriffs election
and that he had given
tion that would have led to the
arrest of Ed Kula of Silver Creek.
Branting’s arrest was made
without a warrant and without
probable cause, the lawsuit
states. It was filed by Branting’s
attorney, Patrick Brock of Grand
Branting and Chuck Johnson
were arrested after the April 1994
shooting death of Carlson. Both
later were released.
Kula then was arrested, tried
and convicted of first-degree
murder and sentenced in Febru
ary to life in prison.
A year ago, Johnson filed a
similar lawsuit against
Schnciderheinz seeking $4 mil
lion. That case is pending before
a federal judge in Lincoln.
Separately, Carlson’s mother
is suing Kula. Betty Wyman of
rural Clarks filed a wrongful
death lawsuit against Kula in
Merrick County District Court.
The lawsuit seeks $6,600 in
special damages for funeral ex
penses and an undetermined
amount of general damages.
Firefighters remember captain as ‘nice guy’
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - The fire cap
tain killed when the burning roof of a
discount store crashed in on him was
remembered by friends and colleagues
as an aggressive firefighter and a good
Capt. John Goessling, 43, was killed
Tuesday night battling the blaze. Ar
son was suspected, and a 15-year-old
boy was charged today with first-de
gree felony murder in the case.
“The best compliment I can give him
is he was a hell of a firefighter,” said
Battalion Chief Don Nichols.
The tattooed former Marine charged
hard as a firefighter, pulled no punches
as a station-house pundit, fired off
one-liners and loved nothing as much
as his wife and children.
Goessling called himself Johnny
Rocket as a pen name, but the moniker
also fit the way he worked.
“He was classified as a hard
charger,” Fire Chief Tom Graeve said.
“He didn’t do anything halfway.”
Goessling enjoyed lifting weights
and playing basketball at the fire sta
tion and with his sons. He had planned
to ride a long-distance bicycle race in
Colorado next month, friends said.
Firefighter Rick Prush compared
Goessling with Omaha Police Officer
Jimmy Wilson Jr., who was killed in
the line of duty, and former Nebraska
quarterback Brook Berringer, who died
last week in a plane crash.
“He was just like them,” Prush said.
“Another nice guy thatjust went down.
It’s just sad. It’s just really sad.”
Goessling is survived by his wife,
Kandi, and their three sons. For his
sons, Goessling set up a full basketball
court in the yard. He built a deck that
runs the length of the house.
“He worked his rear end off,” said
neighbor Debbie Richardson.
“He was tilling and doing everything
in the garden just the other day,” Ms.
Goesslingjoined the department July
6, 1981. He was certified as a para
medic May 18,1985, and promoted to
captain Nov. 28,1988.
Goessling became famous in the
department as the author of what he
described as an underground newslet
“The best compliment I
can give him is he was a
hell of a firefighter. ”
ter. He produced it on a copy machine
as an alternative to the official Omaha
Firefighters Local 385 newspaper, the
The name he chose — the
“BLEVE,”an firefighters’ acronym for
boiling liquid evaporating vapor ex
plosion — was typical of his humor.
Goessling recently became editor of
the Inferno, the publication he had so
often railed against. But that didn’t
stop him from being funny, issuing a
series of tongue-in-cheek commands
in the April issue.
Goessling’s dedication to the job
and his hobbies, his intelligence and
his wit were exceeded by his goodness
as a man, particularly as a fami ly man,
his friends said.
Goessling and his wife, Kandi, had
three sons — JoShua, who graduated
from Central High School last year
and just returned from basic training
for the military reserves; Daniel, who
is a freshman at Burke and plays the
piano, and Nathan, a sixth-grader at
Columbian Elementary School.
On Wednesday morning, black and
white bunting hung below the gray
letters of Station House No. 21, where
Goessling had worked since 1995.
The fabric and an American flag fly
ing at half-staff fluttered in a soft
There were signs that life must go
on. A dispatch broadcast over the
station’s loudspeakers summoned
Goessling’s co-workers to another fire
even as they were still scrubbing the
grime from Tuesday night’s fire from
their fire engines.
Visitation was scheduled for today
from 1 p.m. to 6p.m. at the Holy Cross
Church, with rosary at 4 p.m. Funeral
services are at noon Friday at the same
Teen charged with murder
OMAHA (AP) — A 15-year
old boy was charged Thursday with
first-degree murder in a fire that
killed a fire captain.
Omaha Fire Department Capt.
John Goessling, 43, was killed Tues
day night battling the blaze that
destroyed two north Omaha busi
Police Lt. John Beers said at a
morning news conference that the
teen-ager, Dylan Drake, and an
other 15-year-old apparently started
a fire along a fence behind the Fam
ily Dollar store and left the area
frightened when the fire grew.
Drake was charged as an adult
this morning, said the Douglas
County attorney ’ s office. The other
youth has not been charged, but the
“We believe he set the fire in
order to watch it bum,” Beers said
of Drake. The two were picked up
in a canvass of the area by police.
Beers said the teens were only about
a block away from the fire.
Several witnesses told pol ice that
the boys used a pink-colored lighter
to ignite'leaves and debris, some
thing they had done in the past.
Beers said that a week earlier, the
two teens were believed to have
started a fire at the same fence,
charring the fence.
Beers said Drake was charged
with murder because he was ac
cused of causing the death of an
other while committing arson.
Fire officials said there was no
connection between the north
Omaha fire and a rash of Dundee
neighborhood arson fires in recent
Chief Fire Investigator Joe
Napravnik also said there did not
seem to be an increase in arsons in
Omaha. This year there have been
82 arsons reported, compared with
80 by this time last year.
Fire Chief Tom Graeve said
Thursday that firefighters were in
mourning over the loss of Goessl ing.
Police Chief Jim Skinner said his
officers would wear a black band
across their badges in honor of the
Some 12 people, including wit
nesses, were questioned in the case
and the Douglas County Attorney’s
office approved the arrest of the
boy, Police Sgt. William Muldoon
Goessling, 43, died after the
burning roof of a discount store
crashed in on him as he fought the
Nichols said Goessling was lead
ing his unit about a half-hour after
the first alarm, taking a water hose
into the blazing Family Dollar store
when the roof collapsed on him. He
was inside for some time before
others pulled him out, Nichols said.
“The firefighters that were on
the line managed to get him and
pull him out,” Graeve said.
Officials could not immediately
say how long Goessling was in the
burning debris be fore he was pul led
A fire department spokesman
said Goessling was wearing full
protective gear. Dr. Joseph Stothert
at University Hospital said the
firefighter suffered severe smoke
inhalation and bums. He had been
taken to the hospital in critical con
The fire was declared under con
trol shortly after 7:30 p.m., about 2
1/2 hours after it broke out.
It was the first time since 1989
that an Omaha firefighter died in
the line of duty, fire officials said,
and the 51 st death of a firefighter in
the line of duty in the city’s history.
Graeve said arson was suspected
shortly after the fire broke out just
after 5 p.m. in the Family Dollar
store and spread to the adjacent
Four Aces pawn shop.
Effective May 6,1996
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