May 27, 2015

Omaha police officer, Iowa native laid to rest

An honor guard carries the casket of Omaha Police Officer Karrie Orozco.

An honor guard carries the casket of Omaha Police Officer Karrie Orozco.

Hundreds of mourners gathered in an Omaha church — with several thousand more and at an arena nearby — to pay their respects this morning for Iowa native and Omaha Police Officer Karrie Orozco.

The 29-year-old new mother was fatally shot in the line of duty last week in a shootout with a wanted man, who was also killed.

Dozens of law officers were called to attention as Officer Orozco’s flag-draped casket was brought to St. John’s Catholic Church in the midst of a steady rain.

In a tradition that dates back centuries for a fallen comrade, a riderless horse was escorted to the steps of the church, as the rows of uniformed officers saluted.

The church on the Creighton University campus holds about 700 people and it was packed for the service. Hundreds of law officers from Nebraska, Iowa and elsewhere were part of the overflow crowd that watched the funeral on the jumbotron TVs at the CenturyLink Center in downtown Omaha.

Officers salute their fallen comrade.

Officers salute their fallen comrade.

The Reverend William Bond, of St. Joseph’s Parish, was among the speakers. Reverend Bond said the very large crowd was assembled for a series of reasons.

“Perhaps the reason so many people are here is respect,” Bond said. “All of you who are here to show your respect for Kerrie and for all of our law enforcement officials and other first responders who place their lives in danger every day to protect and promote the common good.”

He called Orozco a servant of God who made prayer a part of her daily routines, including in her squad car. “Oh, God, hear our prayers on behalf of your servant, Kerrie, whom you have called out of this world,” Bond said, “and because she put her hope and trust in you, command that she be carried safely home to heaven and come to enjoy your eternal reward.”

Officer  Kerrie Orozco was shot to death while on duty Wednesday.

Officer Kerrie Orozco .

Reverend Bond had performed the wedding service for Officer Orozco and her husband, Hector. Bond thanked the hundreds of law officers in attendance for their service. Iowa Governor Terry Branstad also attended the service.

“I do want all of our police and law enforcement officers and first responders to know, we respect each one of you,” Bond said. “We know that all of you, every day you go to work, show yourselves willing to make that ultimate sacrifice for us.” Orozco was laid to rest in a dark blue coffin, with burial at St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Council Bluffs.

Orozco is the first female police officer to die in the line of duty in Omaha history. Orozco was a Walnut, Iowa, native and a resident of Council Bluffs. She was married and had three children. Her daughter, Olivia, was born premature on February 17th and had been hospitalized since birth. The infant was due to be released from the hospital the day after the shooting, the same day Orozco was to begin her maternity leave.

Orozco was on the police force more than seven years. She coached baseball since 2009 in the North Omaha Boys and Girls Club, she volunteered with the Special Olympics, she was president of the Police Officers’ Ball to benefit the Special Olympics, she took in rescue dogs and she was a Girl Scout mentor. Omaha’s police chief called Orozco a treasured member of the department and her death is tragedy.

Photos courtesy of the Omaha Police Department.


Senator Grassley says Trans-Pacific Partnership important to Iowa

Senator Chuck Grassley

Senator Chuck Grassley

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says Iowans who farm and those who produce a host of other products that could have a global marketplace should pay close attention to the pending agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Grassley, a Republican, says the treaty between the U.S. and 11 other nations is very important to a long list of industries, topped by agriculture.

“The agreement would ease tariffs among the partners,” Grassley says. “It’s important for many farms and businesses in Iowa that export their products around the world. The agreement is close to completion but it needs the process of Trade Promotion Authority to be concluded.”

Just before the Memorial Day break, the U.S. Senate passed Trade Promotion Authority, which enables President Obama to proceed with trade negotiations. The measure has yet to win approval in the House though Grassley is optimistic of swift passage when the recess is over. “Trade supports good-paying jobs,” Grassley says. “Iowans work hard and use their brains to create. They deserve new opportunities that come from expanded trade.”

Congress doesn’t have the ability to negotiate deals with other nations, so a number of times since World War Two, Congress has passed Trade Promotion Authority which gives the president the power to broker key trade deals.

“The president is given authority to negotiate,” Grassley says. “Those guidelines are very strict and he just can’t negotiate anything he wants. When it’s all said and done, anything the president signs can’t go into effect until it’s passed by both the House and Senate.”

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is between the U.S. and the following 11 nations: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Chain email offers bogus advice on surviving a heart attack

Medical LogoAn email is being forwarded around from Iowans to their loved ones that claims to contain advice about how to survive a heart attack if you’re alone.

One expert says the email offers terrible advice. It claims you should cough, hard, with each breath until help arrives.

Dr. Shikar Saxena, a cardiologist in Omaha-Council Bluffs, says it’s best to delete that email and try to forget the false remedy.

“That is absolutely ludicrous to say that somebody who’s alone who’s having a heart attack can cough and essentially save their life,” Dr. Saxena says. “You only have about ten seconds, if you’re truly having arrhythmia, before you’re going to pass out from it.”

He says that valuable time would be much better spent getting to a phone and calling 911. Saxena explains the likely origins of the well-meaning but invalid email.

“When we have patients who have cardiac arrest or arrhythmias and we see them in the hospital, we tell them sometimes to cough and very rarely can we get them out of this arrhythmia,” Dr. Saxena says, “so that’s where this all started from.”

The subject line in the email is: “How to Survive a Heart Attack When Alone,” and it’s been floating around cyberspace for years but it’s found new life in the past few weeks.

Shikar is a cardiologist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.



Bosses could do a better job of telling workers ‘good job’

One Hundred US Dollar Notes, close upA survey finds 90% of managers say their company does a fantastic job with employee recognition but only 30% of workers agree.

Mike Gremmer, spokesman for the Office Team staffing service in Omaha-Council Bluffs, says while many companies can’t afford big bonuses or raises, they can do a better job of showing appreciation.

“Simple thank you notes go a long way, public recognition in front of their peers, you can celebrate milestones like production figures and certain anniversaries, maybe take people to lunch,” Gremmer says. “You just have to get creative.”

While he’s not surprised by the results of the survey, Gremmer says employers need to make it a priority to create a good work environment.

“We have a thriving economy right now, there’s a labor shortage out there,” Gremmer says. “When you think about your own company and the work environment you want to create, when people are happy, they’re going to give you more performance which positively effects the bottom line of your organization.”

Nobody wants to have a miserable work environment and Gremmer says it’s okay for workers to call bosses out, if it’s done carefully.

“Workers should let it be known, in a professional way,” he says. “There’s nothing wrong to mention to your employers that you really appreciate a little positive feedback. You want to be sensitive to the business conditions and budget limitations the company may have but there’s nothing wrong with saying, ‘Thank you, that meant a lot to me.'”

Gremmer says it benefits the company to have a policy in place to show recognition and to be a place where people are happy to come to work.


Study: Iowa fails kids with school breakfast/lunch programs

School BreakfastIowa placed near the very bottom of a new study ranking the states for the percentage of low-income students who take part in government-funded school breakfast and lunch programs.

Crystal FitzSimons, spokeswoman for the Food Research and Action Center, says Iowa placed 48th on the annual survey.

“There’s about 72,000 low-income students in Iowa who participate in the school breakfast program and that’s compared to about 178,000 low-income students who participate in the school lunch program,” FitzSimons says. “Iowa’s serving about 40 low-income students breakfast for every 100 that they serve lunch.”

Nationally, more than 11-million low-income kids are receiving free or reduced-price school breakfast. She says Iowa’s numbers are growing, but there’s much progress to be made. The report shows the number of Iowa kids who eat free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch at school has grown by only 2.2% in the past five years.

“There’s a lot of families that are struggling to put food on the table,” FitzSimons says. “Families who rely on free and reduced-price school lunch often would really benefit from having access to breakfast as well. The challenge with the school breakfast program is that it’s often run before the school day starts so kids have to get to school early in order to participate.”

Given commute times and bus schedules, the hour of day often makes it difficult for a child to get to school early enough to take part. Some schools have moved breakfast into the classroom, making it part of the school day, and FitzSimons says that seems to be working.

“States that are having an easier time feeding low-income children breakfast are doing those kinds of models,” FitzSimons says. “They’re delivering breakfast in the classroom, they have grab-and-go breakfasts where kids can grab breakfast when they get off the bus and take it into the classroom or eat it on their way to class and those strategies really do increase participation in the school breakfast program.”

Research shows good nutrition, and eating breakfast in particular, is important for cognitive functioning and academic success.

The survey of the 50 states and the District of Columbia ranked Iowa 48th, only ahead of Nebraska, New Hampshire and Utah. The top performers are: West Virginia, New Mexico and Washington D.C.

The Food Research and Action Center is a national non-profit anti-hunger organization that does research, advocacy and policy work to increase families’ access to federal nutrition programs.



Slain Omaha police officer was an Iowa native

Officer  Kerrie Orozco was shot to death while on duty Wednesday.

Officer Kerrie Orozco was shot to death while on duty Wednesday.

The first female police officer to die in the line of duty in Omaha history, 29-year-old Kerrie Orozco, was shot and killed Wednesday afternoon while serving an arrest warrant. Officer Orozco was a Walnut, Iowa, native and a resident of Council Bluffs.

Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer says Orozco was with several other officers on a fugitive task force. “The fugitive officers were attempting to locate and arrest a suspect who had a felony warrant for first-degree assault as the result of a shooting investigation,” Chief Schmaderer says. “The officers observed the suspect on foot. At this location, the suspect fired several gunshots at officers.”

Officer Orozco was very active in Omaha youth programs.

Officer Orozco was very active in Omaha youth programs.

The officers returned fire and the suspect was also killed. He’s identified as 26-year-old Marcus Wheeler, a convicted felon and a known gang member. The chief says Officer Orozco was married and had three children. “She has a step-daughter and a step-son,” Schmaderer says. “Kerrie had a newborn baby that was born February 17th.”

That newborn, Olivia, was Orozco’s first child. She was born premature and has been hospitalized since birth. The infant was due to be released from the hospital today and Orozco was to begin her maternity leave today as well.

Orozco with her newborn daughter, husband and step-children.

Orozco with her newborn daughter, husband and step-children.

Schmaderer says the entire community is mourning the loss of this fine woman who had served on the Omaha PD for more than seven years.

“She was a tremendous officer and an even better person,” the chief says. “She coached baseball since 2009 in the North Omaha Boys and Girls Club, she volunteered with the Special Olympics, she was president of the Police Officers’ Ball to benefit the Special Olympics, she took in rescue dogs, she was a Girl Scout mentor, she spoke at Girls Inc. frequently.”

Schmaderer says Officer Orozco was a treasured member of the department and her death is tragedy.

“The city of Omaha owes her a debt of gratitude, and her family, like no other,” he says. The shooting is still under investigation. Baby Olivia remains hospitalized in Omaha.

Orozco talked about her work in a video.

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds released statements on Orozco’s death:

“I wish to extend my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Officer Kerrie Orozco,” said Branstad. “As a former military policeman, I am keenly aware of the dangers law enforcement face every single day on the job. Officer Orozco served with integrity and was a model peace officer. My thoughts and prayers are with her newborn daughter and her entire family.”

 “Officer Kerrie Orozco went to work every day to serve her community and keep her neighbors safe,” said Reynolds. “This is a devastating loss of a dedicated public servant, community member and new mother. I offer my deepest sympathy to the family of Officer Orozco.”

Photos courtesy of the Omaha Police Department.


Better Business Bureau warns of paving scams

Better-Business-Bureau-logoIowa homeowners are warned to be wary of road construction crews that pull up unannounced and offer to spread a new asphalt driveway for you on the cheap.

Jim Hegarty, with the Better Business Bureau, says folks in the region are already reporting cases of this familiar scam and he says, don’t be fooled.

“They’ve got trucks that look sort of legitimate,” Hegarty says. “They’ll claim they have leftover asphalt from a state job and they need to have cash and they’ll get it done for you before day’s end. Sometimes, they’ll actually start tearing out the driveway. They’ll take the cash, or if you give them a check before banking hours close, they’ll hit the local bank, cash the check and you’ll never see them again.”

It’s always a risk when someone comes to your door offering a deal, Hegarty says, and if you’re not careful, you could get taken by one of these fast-talking crooks.

“These are travelers, sort of like gypsies, and they have encampments all over the South,” he says. “Whenever the weather breaks, they start to move up towards our area.”

The best bet, Hegarty says, is to just say “no” and to contact a reputable, local company if your driveway needs repairs.