Catholic Charities “active shooter” drill fiasco just got even weirder

The case of the Omaha Catholic Charities (OCC) active shooter drill gone terribly awry keeps getting stranger.

You might recall that an Omaha gun nut with shady credentials, a guy named John Channels, allegedly managed to talk local Catholic Charities leaders in letting him stage an active shooter drill at the organization’s new headquarters.

Channels says leaders of OCC went along with his request to make the drill more realistic by not informing the employees it as all being staged.

You can probably guess how that went down:

About 9:30 a.m. May 19, Channels showed up in a dark hoodie with a dark mask on, fired into the air, banged on the windows of a conference room where a few employees had gathered, then began firing at the window. Fleeing employees ran past a woman lying on the ground with apparent bloody wounds. One female employee heard three shots behind her — and thought she was being fired upon. She jumped off a retaining wall in the hopes of hiding in a dumpster. Several described running as fast as they could. An elderly woman told police she knew she couldn’t get away. “This is it,” she recalled thinking. “I’m done.”

Thursday, Douglas County Judge Craig McDermott set Channels’ bail at 10% of $300,000, meaning he would have to post $30,000 cash to be released. Prosecutor Jen Meckna told the judge that after terrorizing the employees, Channels went around asking if they wished they had a gun, saying he could sell them a weapon and lessons on how to use it.

The unwitting employees “were hysterical,” Meckna said. “They were in fear for their lives.”

Catholic Charities Executive Director Denise Bartels authorized the drill after the compliance director and security director told her about it, police say. In the statement Wednesday, Bartels said charity directors didn’t know where to turn for active-shooter training and found Channels on the recommendation of their security guard.

“We deeply regret following his recommendations and selecting him for the training,” Bartels wrote. “He clearly misrepresented himself and his qualifications. He did not follow the agreed-upon procedures for the training, mishandled its implementation and did not complete the pre-training communication with Omaha police and 911 dispatchers.”

Yeah, not only did the employees not know, the police and police dispatchers also did not know this was taking place as terrified employees called 911.

As this is all making its way through the criminal justice system, Channels made the news again:

Since news of a too-real active-shooter drill at Catholic Charities of Omaha, authorities have wondered what kind of person would scare charity workers by pounding on windows, pointing a gun at them and firing blanks.

Turns out, prosecutors allege, it’s the kind of guy who would terrorize an underage girl for years.

Douglas County prosecutors recently filed 22 additional charges in a child sexual assault case against John A. Channels of Omaha.

Channels, 27, stands accused of 31 felonies that could send him to prison for the rest of his life. His attorney has said he maintains his innocence in both the child-rape case and the Catholic Charities terrorism case.

With 22 additional charges filed last week, prosecutors have now charged Channels with 12 counts of sexual assault of a child, 10 child pornography-related felonies and three assault counts in connection with a relationship they say he had with a girl from when she was 12 through her early teens.

Oh, boy. What a mess.

John Channels

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