Police release name of man accused of stabbing 3 women at Siena-Francis House

August 10, 2018

Officials have released more details about what happened Wednesday at the Siena-Francis House homeless shelter , where a man stabbed three women with a knife before being shot and killed by authorities.

Linda Twomey, executive director of the shelter, said the three injured women, Janis Boos, Jenilee Rapp and Brenda Finnegan, are staff members at the shelter and are expected to recover. “(They) are our colleagues and our friends. We’re grateful that their injuries are not life-threatening,” she said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

According to a police statement, multiple officers fired their weapons at 54-year-old Stephen L. Caldwell, who had been holding one of the women hostage and had refused officers’ commands to put down a knife — after already stabbing the other two.

Police shot Caldwell after he unlocked and opened the door to the office where he had held the woman hostage.

Mental illness may be a factor. Caldwell’s girlfriend, Ceaira Oliver of Omaha, has said he suffered from schizophrenia and had run out of his medication. The woman he held hostage told police that he appeared “paranoid.”

The woman told detectives that problems with Caldwell started earlier that day.

Caldwell came into her office at 1401 N. 18th St at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday and told her that he had an issue with a female employee regarding property, she told police.

The statement does not say what the problem was, but a resident at the shelter has said he witnessed Caldwell being upset that his laundry had been thrown away after he hadn’t picked it up for a number of days.

Also that day, Caldwell showed another woman a knife he said he had stolen from a nearby Family Dollar store. He told the woman that he was mad at the shelter’s staff and that “he wasn’t going to stop until the cops shot him,” according to her account to police.

That afternoon, Caldwell returned to the campus, and at 4:31 p.m., emergency dispatchers received a call for help. The caller told police that a man had stabbed two people and run into a building. The call was upgraded when the caller said the man was holding a box cutter to a third woman’s throat.

When Caldwell arrived in the woman’s office, he was acting “paranoid” and had a bloody knife in his hand, she told police. Caldwell closed and locked the door and barricaded it with several chairs, then handcuffed the woman to her office desk.

Police arrived at the shelter at 4:34 p.m. and gathered outside the locked office door, trying to talk Caldwell into opening it. The officers asked the woman if she was in danger and Caldwell told her to reply “yes,” which she did.

The officers called for a hostage negotiator at 4:37 p.m. They then called for a K-9 handler at 4:39 p.m.

Caldwell opened the door and ran back to the desk, where he retrieved the knife and held it to the woman’s neck, placing her between himself and the police.

Officers entered the room with their guns drawn and ordered Caldwell multiple times to “put it down” and to “drop the knife.” The officers then shot Caldwell at 4:45 p.m.

A large kitchen-style knife and a box cutter were recovered from the scene.

The three women were taken to the Nebraska Medical Center, where Boos and Finnegan remained Thursday night. No information on their condition was available.

Four officers have been placed on administrative leave, as is standard procedure, while the case is being investigated by the Omaha Police Department’s Officer-Involved Investigations Team and the Nebraska State Patrol. Body camera footage and the hostage’s statement indicate that multiple officers fired their guns. Per state law, a grand jury will be convened to investigate the in-custody death.

None of the officers involved have been identified by Omaha policeas of Thursday evening.

Investigators have interviewed several witnesses at the Siena-Francis House.

Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said in a statement that the officers “responded heroically.”

“It is clear the officers were put in a situation where they were forced to use deadly force to save a life,” he said. “The officers responded heroically and in a manner consistent with their training.”

Twomey said the shelter is carrying on, even as it grieves.

“Like a family we are all grieving in our own way,” Twomey said. “We will continue to do what we need to do to heal and provide necessary homeless services.”

The shelter serves about 500 people a day. The three women provide direct services to the homeless. Rapp and Finnegan are case managers, and Boos serves on the shelter staff.

Court records show that Caldwell has a lengthy criminal history and has spent two stints in prison.

In 1997 and again in 1999, Caldwell was convicted of third-degree assault of a police officer. He was sentenced to one year to 18 months on the first occasion and 20 months to five years on the second.

Records also show that Caldwell was convicted of fourth-offense drunken driving in 2000 and was sentenced to 18 months to four years in prison. He also was sentenced earlier that year to one year in jail after being convicted of making terroristic threats.

Last month, Caldwell was sentenced in Douglas County to 16 days in jail for disorderly conduct. Other misdemeanor convictions on Caldwell’s record included assault and battery, driving with a suspended license and shoplifting.

World-Herald staff writer Kevin Cole contributed to this report.

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