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News
Man at center of standoff wanted fugitive
  • Updated

The Hastings Police Department has released more details about the nearly five-hour standoff Thursday in the 300 block of North Saunders Avenue in a news release issued Friday.

HPD detectives Cale Neelly and James Barron were conducting surveillance in the 300 block of North Saunders Avenue about 12:30 p.m. Thursday.

Both detectives currently are assigned to the Central Nebraska Drug & Safe Streets Task Force, which include members from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Nebraska State Patrol, Grand Island Police Department, Kearney Police Department, Hastings Police Department, Hall County Sheriff’s Office, Buffalo County Sheriff’s Office and Adams County Sheriff’s Office.

Officers with the Hastings Police Department and Adams County Sheriff’s Office were on scene during the initial aspects of the investigation.

Officers saw two subjects, Holly Hartman and William Packer, exited a vehicle in the 300 block of North Saunders Avenue.

Hartman subsequently was arrested for driving under suspension and possession of methamphetamine.

Packer fled from officers into the residence at 315 N Saunders Ave. Packer was wanted on both state and federal warrants and has been a fugitive for over six months.

Officers set up a perimeter around the residence and requested assistance from Officer Grady Gardner and his K9 partner Kane.

Kane alerted and indicated the odor of illegal drug coming from the vehicle Hartman and Packer had exited. A subsequent search of the vehicle uncovered more than 1.6 pounds of meth, three handguns, over $16,000 in cash, and other illegal items.

Other members of the task force responded along with Hastings Police Department staff to continue a perimeter and make the neighborhood safe for the residents.

Officers made several attempts to have Packer exit the house and surrender himself, but Packer refused.

The Hastings Police Department Tactical Response Team was activated, and a search warrant was obtained for the residence. During the service of the search warrant, two men, Gregg Weatherwax and Ryan Moody, were arrested as accessories to a felony for harboring Packer inside the residence.

Officers made many attempts to get Packer to surrender himself, but he refused to exit the residence until the Tactical Response Team deployed chemical munitions. Packer almost immediately surrendered after the gas was deployed.

No shots were fired or injuries reported.

Packer, 45, of Hastings was arrested for multiple felonies as well as several outstanding warrants.

An initial statement Thursday from HPD regarding the incident incorrectly identified Packer as Billy Packard. No one named Billy Packard is involved with this story.

Officers are recommending charges of possession of meth with intent to distribute; possession of a firearm by a prohibited person; possession of money while violating drug laws; theft by receiving a stolen firearm; and obstructing a police officer.

The outstanding warrants included one in Adams County for possession of a controlled substance; one in Hall County for distribution of a controlled substance and possession of money while violating drug laws; and one federal warrant for conspiracy to distribute meth and possession of meth with intent to distribute.


News
Hastings Middle School sends off resource officer
  • Updated

S tudents and staff at Hastings Middle School waved flags and held signs Oct. 8 wishing Hastings Police Officer Bradly Cunningham well on his last day as school resource officer before his military deployment.

Students handed Cunningham cards and pictures they made for the sendoff as Cunningham walked along the driveway.

Caleb Pedersen, a sixth-grade student, said he was sad to see Cunningham go, but glad the school allowed students to wish him well.

“I like it,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

Nathan Gallaway, a sixth-grade student, was glad to be able to make signs for the officer.

“It’s cool to be able to say goodbye to him,” he said.

Cunningham thanked everyone for coming out to wish him well on his last day.

“I really appreciate it,” he said. “It’s awesome. I love the support. I’m going to miss each and every one of you for the next year while I’m gone.”

Also on hand were a number of fellow officers with the Hastings Police Department as well as firefighters with Hastings Fire and Rescue.

HPD Chief Adam Story said it was encouraging to know the school wanted to provide Cunningham with such a great sendoff.

“It’s an amazing event,” he said. “It is a school function, and we’re grateful they included us in it. It goes to show the importance of the school resource officer.”

Cunningham is one of three HPD officers set to be deployed recently. Keyle Alcorn, high school resource officer, and Patrol Officer Mark Grupe also will be on hiatus with the department while fulfilling their military obligations.

This will be Cunningham’s third deployment since he joined the military in 2008. He went to Afghanistan in 2011 and was sent to Cuba in 2017. He was married with a 2-year-old son at the time he deployed to Cuba, but he said this time leaving felt even more emotional as he also had to say goodbye to the middle school students.

Cunningham started his career as a police officer with the Hastings Police Department in 2014. He worked various shifts in the department in the patrol division until given the opportunity to serve as school resource officer for Hastings Middle School.

In his four years in the position, Cunningham said, getting to know the students has been the best part. Along with school safety, he also provides education and mentoring to students. He said many students have come to him with issues and mentoring has been his favorite part of the job.

He was surprised and shocked by the sendoff, and the fact that staff and fellow officers were able to keep it a secret until Friday.

“It really makes me know I am wanted here,” he said. “I appreciate all the support.”


News
Proteus working to provide a better life for farmworkers
  • Updated

One organization is working to provide agricultural workers and their families with affordable health care, education assistance and job training.

Jody Stutzman of Hastings, regional director for Proteus Inc., provided an overview during a Zoom presentation on Friday for the Hastings League of Women Voters of the efforts her employer is undertaking to provide a better life for farmworkers and their families in Nebraska, Iowa and Indiana.

Proteus, an Iowa-based nonprofit with an office in Hastings, promotes values including compassion, integrity, empowerment, respect and communication.

Stutzman said Proteus serves about 400 families each year through the National Farmworker Jobs Program.

“Our goal through the National Farmworker Jobs Program is to provide seasonal and migrant agricultural workers with the skills and training they need to obtain full-time, year round employment that helps them become self-sufficient,” she said.

The National Farmworkers Jobs Program services include career searches, college enrollment, FAFSA completion, tuition assistance, books, classroom stipends, mileage reimbursement and miscellaneous assistance such as tools, uniforms, rent, utilities, groceries and child care.

An applicant must have worked in agriculture or farm work within the last two years. A dependent of someone who performed agricultural work is also eligible.

The applicant must be authorized to work in the United States.

Proteus has provided health and safety training for more than 7,000 farmworkers.

First Presbyterian Church, Catholic Social Services and individuals in the Hastings community collect long-sleeved shirts to give to migrant workers when they arrive to project them from pesticides while working.

“They often come on school buses from Mexico or Texas with very little belongings,” Stutzman said.

More than 1,500 farmworkers and their family members have received primary care.

More than 250 families in Iowa and northeast Nebraska received food from a Proteus food pantry.

More than 15,000 face masks were donated through Proteus as part of a COVID-19 response.

Proteus and state partners provided nearly 3,000 COVID-19 tests for farmworkers.

Proteus is working on future programs including primary health care for farmworkers in new locations, health care for meat-processing workers, farmworker youth leadership development, farmworker leadership development, and a financial literacy program for farmworkers and meat-processing workers.

Stutzman, who has worked for Proteus since July 2012, is not bilingual.

“Everyone assumes I am bilingual, but I think if you try hard enough you could make it work, and if you smile people trust you,” she said. “That’s how I’ve been able to get through it and work through it.”

Stutzman frequently is touched by the stories of farmworkers.

“I know I could tell you a million stories about the people I’ve helped since I’ve been here and got to meet,” she said. “I just want to reiterate farm workers, agricultural workers, are some of the most hardworking, genuinely nice people I have ever met. It’s definitely been my pleasure to work with them. I’ve learned so much through my time at Proteus.”


News
Colleges have raised most of the money for nursing program facility at MLH
  • Updated

As Mary Lanning Healthcare begins construction of a major addition to its Medical Services Building, Hastings College and the Bryan College of Health Sciences are announcing major progress in fundraising for the nursing education facility they will locate in some of the new space.

In a news release Thursday, officials of the two colleges reported they have raised $2.5 million of the $3.1 million needed to build out and equip a portion of the expanded building’s third floor.

That space — 17,000 square feet — will house the Hastings location for Bryan’s bachelor of science in nursing program.

In late 2020, the Lincoln-based Bryan College forged an agreement with Hastings College and Mary Lanning whereunder Bryan will offer nursing education in Hastings, replicating the successful program on its Lincoln campus.

Bryan students who opt to study in Hastings will take their first year of science and general education classes at Hastings College. They will be able to live on campus and be part of the Hastings College community, eligible to participate in activities and organizations there.

Beginning with their sophomore year, the students will take nursing courses taught by Bryan faculty in the education center at Mary Lanning.

Officials broke ground Monday for the building project, which is expected to be complete in about 18 months.

Meanwhile, recruiting for Bryan’s Hastings program began in late 2020 after plans for the program received final approval. Two students currently are enrolled, but the goal is to eventually sign 30 students per class.

Rich Lloyd is executive president of Hastings College and president of the Bryan college. A feasibility study for the new nursing program was announced when Lloyd, who already had the Bryan post, added the HC assignment in September 2020.

“This collaboration provides important benefits for all three partners,” Lloyd said. “While Bryan Health and Mary Lanning Healthcare will benefit from first access to well-trained nursing graduates, Hastings College will, when the program is at full capacity, add 120 students to its residence halls and classrooms. We’ll also boost the economic vitality of this region by helping prepare students for high-wage, high-demand jobs.”

Until fall 2020, Creighton University of Omaha maintained a nursing education campus at Mary Lanning. The Creighton campus now has been relocated to CHI Health St. Francis in Grand Island — a sister hospital to the Creighton University Medical Center, which also is operated by Catholic Health Initiatives. (Hastings College continues to partner with Creighton in providing that program.)

Meanwhile, both Mary Lanning and Bryan Medical Center in Lincoln have a vested interest in building up the health care workforce in south central Nebraska. Both organizations have an ownership stake in the new Grand Island Regional Medical Center.

In Thursday’s news release, Hastings College and the Bryan college said fundraising for the Mary Lanning nursing education center began in late 2020, and that the $2.5 million raised so far has come from sources including foundations, bequests, and gifts from individual donors.

“This is the most innovative and collaborative partnership Hastings College has developed in more than 10 years, and we are hopeful that friends in the community can provide the final dollars to help us reach our goal,” said Gary Freeman, executive director of the Hastings College Foundation. “After the nursing facilities are complete, we plan to fine-tune and replicate this academic partnership for other workforce initiatives.”

The faculty and administrative suite in the nursing center’s west wing will be named for Leota Rolls, a 1965 Hastings College graduate who served 47 years as a nurse, nursing educator and senior vice president at Mary Lanning.

The east wing will be named the Tim and Linda Daugherty Educational Center for Health Professions in memory of Tim, a 1970 HC graduate and longtime member of the college’s Board of Trustees who died in 2020; and in honor of Linda, a Bryan nursing graduate who lives in Omaha.

“We are honored to recognize three people who have given back to Hastings College and this community in such extraordinary ways,” Freeman said.

Bryan’s BSN program is four years in duration and fully accredited. One hundred percent of the graduates from the Lincoln campus who are seeking nursing positions find jobs within four months of graduation, the colleges said in their news release.

Graduates of Bryan’s BSN program in 2020 achieved a 99% first-time pass rate on the National Council Licensure Examination, compared to 87% of first-time test takers nationally.

Students in the Hastings nursing program will complete more than 1,230 hours of clinical experiences — the highest number of any BSN program in Nebraska — with priority placements at Mary Lanning and the new Grand Island hospital.

The 2020 report of the Nebraska Center for Nursing predicts that by 2025 the need for nurses in the state’s Central Economic Region, which includes Hastings, will grow by at least 20% and the state’s overall nursing shortage will increase by nearly 30%.

Chief Construction of Grand Island is general contractor for expansion of the Medical Services Building, which will just more than double the structure’s floor space — currently 63,957 square feet. The project price tag is $22 million.

The structure, which is east of the main hospital building, will be renamed the Medical Office Building once construction is complete.


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