OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Four men are facing new charges in the death of a 5-year-old Omaha girl who was hit by a stray bullet while eating breakfast in her family’s home.
All four had been arrested earlier on suspicion of theft in connection with a Jeep seen on surveillance video in the area where shots were fired on Jan. 15. Police believe that a bullet from the shooting about a block from Payton Benson’s home killed the girl and that she was not an intended target of the gunfire.
The men now face charges more directly tying them to her death.
Vincent Hicks, 20, was booked Wednesday on suspicion of first-degree murder, criminal conspiracy and three felony weapons counts. Investigators suspect he fired the bullet that killed Payton, although neither that bullet nor the gun have been found.
Adonus Moses, 22, was booked on suspicion of criminal conspiracy to commit second-degree murder, police said. Also, 18-year-old Jaylen Montgomery and 21-year-old Jacob Brown were booked on suspicion of discharging a firearm at an occupied dwelling and using a weapon to commit a felony. Montgomery faces an additional charge of being a felon in possession of a gun.
“These arrests are the product of a community that has stepped forward to assist law enforcement, coupled with gang and homicide detectives that have worked tirelessly to solve this case,” Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said in a written statement Wednesday.
Later in the day at a news conference, Payton’s mother, Tabatha Manning, said she had forgiven those responsible for her daughter’s death and said the new charges “will not bring my daughter back.”
“There’s no anger,” she said. “There really isn’t. I’m sad.”
Asked what she would like to say to those responsible for Payton’s death, Manning said she wanted to wait to personally address whoever is convicted.
Omaha City Councilman Ben Gray, who is the uncle of Payton’s father, said the family is still dealing with the loss.
“There’s no winners in this,” he said. “The young men … they have four families that are going to be suffering as a result of this.”
Hicks, Montgomery and Moses were arrested days after the shooting on suspicion of theft in connection with the Jeep stolen in December. Brown was arrested a week later, also on suspicion of theft.
Bill Eustice, an Omaha attorney appointed to represent Montgomery, said his client plans to plead not guilty.
“It’s early,” Eustice said. “We’ve not even seen any evidence in this case yet.”
An attorney for Hicks did not immediately return a message left Wednesday seeking comment, and a public defender appointed to represent Moses declined to comment. Online court records do not show that Brown had a lawyer by Wednesday.