By Jim Titsworth
Independent Staff Writer
Statewide reports of looting in Grand Island have been greatly exaggerated, according to city officials.
Assistant City Attorney Bill Shreffler said Thursday afternoon he had talked to all the officers in charge of the emergency command post in the Kmart parking lot and he hadn't been told of any widespread looting incidents.
The Omaha World-Herald published a story that quoted City Councilman John Slatter as saying considerable looting of businesses along South Locust had taken place.
Slattery had told the World-Herald looters were picking up anything they could carry -- pocket calculators, transistor radios, ect."
The Lincoln Starr referred to widespread looting in Grand Island in an editorial, saying "that kind of low-life response to tragedy and disorders isn't limited to big cities." But Police Chief Howard Bacon said, "We checked out several reports of looters along South Locust and when officers got to the scene they found owners or managers and their friends trying to clean up their businesses."
Bacon also said he was unaware of any reports of looting near the Veterans Home.
Shreffler commended the victims and citizens of Grand Island: "They have held up magnificently and people are going into the devastated area and asking where they can help."
Shreffler noted there have been some shots fired in the city but they are people shooting guns in the air to warn looters where there are no looters.
Bacon spent the first 48 hors in the South Locust area, leaving only to go home and pick up his high-blood pressure pills. He said he didn't expect much looting. "I think it has been minimal," he said. "People are sometimes overreacting to rumors."
For example, Bacon said, a resident at a Thursday night meeting was telling how looters had taken his refrigerator from his house, but Nebraska Adjutant General Edward Binder asked him if the tornado could have taken it. The man agreed there was no way to determine.
The South Locust area is sealed off during the curfew hours (8 p.m.-6 a.m.) and no one is allowed to enter or leave.
Officers responded to a shots fired call Wednesday night, "to find a man with a six-pack and a six-gun," Shreffler said. "He had heard a rumor of looters in the area and fired his gun into the area. The man wasn't arrested."
The Capital Heights area, Kuesters Lake area, and Shady Bend Road and Husker Highway area are saturation patrolled at nights.
Anyone in those areas is being stopped. Thursday night three off-duty guardsmen were arrested for curfew violations.
"I think their commander is going to have a piece of them," Bacon said.