- A Nebraska man hired by a charity to fake a mass shooting has been charged with making terrorist threats.
- The Omaha World Herald reported John Channels was advised to make the exercise realistic.
- The simulation caused chaos among employees who thought the exercise was real.
A Nebraska man hired by a local charity to fake a mass shooting has been charged with making terrorist threats.
The Omaha World Herald reported that John Channels was advised by Catholic Charities, an organization with branches across the United States, to make the exercise realistic – which he did, with paid actors covered in blood.
Unfortunately, the simulation caused chaos among employees who thought the shooting was real. The outlet reported that bloodied actors lay in the hallways of the office building. A female employee told the World-Herald she heard gunshots behind her and jumped off a retaining wall to try to hide in a dumpster.
The incident, which happened on May 19, 2022, began when shackles fired at a conference room window of the office building where employees were gathered, according to the outlet.
An elderly employee told police she thought she was going to die. “That’s it,” she told the World-Herald.
Channels lawyer Erin Wetzel told the publication that Catholic Charities asked the 27-year-old to conduct the exercise in this specific way. “It’s important to note that several (of the administrators) accepted it, and while it was happening, they weren’t telling employees what was going on, even when they asked for it,” Wetzel said.
Omaha Catholic Charities executive director Denise Bartels said in a statement that the group hired Channels “based on recommendations from respected sources, and that he clearly presented himself and his qualifications”.
Channels’ LinkedIn page says he is a police officer for Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska and is also the CEO of a security company called Exousia Protection Agency. Neither organization responded to Insider’s requests for comment.
The daily beast reported law enforcement said they were not alerted to the drill and reacted as if it was an active crime scene. Don Kleine, the Douglas County attorney, told the outlet that “the police came, they didn’t know it was happening. They thought it was a real active shooter. There were people calling the 911.”
Local news channel KMTV reported that Channels identified himself to police as a civilian police officer from Offutt.
On Tuesday, Channels was arrested and charged with five counts of uttering terroristic threats and one count of weapons, according at the World Herald.
That’s not Channels’ only run-in with the law. In May he was stopped and charged with three felonies, including first-degree sexual assault of a child, visual depiction of sexually explicit behavior by a child, and attempted intentional child abuse. It is unclear whether the charity was aware of his earlier charges.
Catholic Charities, Erin Wetzel, the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office and the Omaha Police Department did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.