Police: Man who shot 2 officers at hospital dies

September 29, 2010 7:52:21 PM PDT
A 39-year-old man who led police on a high-speed car chase early Wednesday opened fire hours later at an Omaha hospital, wounding two police officers before they gunned him down, authorities said.

Jeffrey Layten, of Valley, died of his wounds shortly after 2 p.m. Wednesday at Creighton University Medical Center, Omaha Police spokesman Jacob Bettin said. The hospital's CEO, Gary Honts, said he didn't know of any link Layten may have had to the hospital.

Omaha police Chief Alex Hayes said Layten pointed a 45-caliber handgun at officers when they confronted him in a hospital lobby.

Hayes said Layten fired his gun, wounding two officers, around the same time one officer was firing a Taser at Layten. Police then returned fire, striking Layten at least four times, Hayes said.

The two officers who were hurt sustained minor injuries. One had a thigh wound and the other a foot wound, Layten said.

Police have not said why they think Layten was at the hospital, but Hayes said he had been expressing suicidal thoughts to relatives. Hours earlier, he had fled the crash scene after driving his pickup truck into a utility pole in Ralston following a high-speed police chase in nearby La Vista.

Bettin said that just before the shooting, a caller to 911 reported that an apparently despondent man was using a pay phone at the hospital, which is a few blocks north of the city's downtown.

According to La Vista Police Chief Robert Lausten, a woman called the department at about 12:15 a.m. Wednesday to report that Layten, her sister's estranged husband, had attacked her sister in Tekamah and threatened to drive to La Vista to kill her and her mother. Tekamah is about 40 miles north of Omaha.

According to the Burt County Sheriff's Office, deputies went to Layten's former home near Tekamah but were told he had just left in his pickup truck and had taken three guns with him.

Lausten said officers set up surveillance at the La Vista homes, and that Layten drove by his estranged wife's mother's home within minutes.

Officers tried to stop the truck, but Layten took off and led police on a dangerous chase through the city at speeds of over 90 mph, Lausten said. Officers gave up the chase, and Layten crashed into a utility pole in nearby Ralston a short time later. Layten fled the scene armed with a rifle, the chief said.

The chief said he was told Layten may have had some "special forces kind of training."

"We're really lucky no one was shot here," Lausten said.

Omaha police were trying to determine Layten's whereabouts between the chase and the shooting at the hospital, Bettin said. Layten owned the Upland Fields Hunt Club, had at least four years of Army training and "was a crack shot," Omaha attorney James Martin Davis said outside the hospital.

"I can't imagine Jeff Layten, in his right mind, would have pulled a firearm and shot at an Omaha police officer," said Davis, who considered Layten a friend.

Burt County court records show Layten was fined $50 in 2008 for violating deer regulations and fined $10 in 2007 for writing a bad check. No other criminal cases involving Layten appear in online court records from the past decade.

U.S. Rep. Lee Terry, R-Nebraska, issued a statement saying he's hunted on Layten's property many times.

"Jeff has always been an easygoing person, and today's episode is very out of character for him," Terry said.

Calls on Wednesday to a Tekamah phone listing for Jeffrey and Courtney Layten went unanswered. A public-records search turned up a number of people in La Vista and Omaha who might be related to the couple. Messages left by The Associated Press at the home listings of those people were not immediately returned.

A woman who answered the home phone of Jack Layten of Aurora, Colo., who might be the father of Jeffrey Layten, said he was not available to speak and hung up.

In a statement released by police Wednesday evening, Jeff Layten's family said "Jeff's entire family is profoundly saddened by today's events. We appreciate the media's respect of our privacy in this time of mourning."

Creighton University Medical Center, which has 334 beds, is one of two trauma centers in Omaha. It has a network of nearly 300 physicians who practice in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa. ---

Associated Press writers Josh Funk and Nelson Lampe in Omaha, and Margery A. Beck in Lincoln contributed to this report. ---

Online:

Creighton University Medical Center:
http://www.creightonhospital.com
Omaha Police: http://www.opd.ci.omaha.ne.us


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