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Gas prices nearing $2 in Lincoln, already below that elsewhere in state

The average price of gas is officially still higher than $2 a gallon in Lincoln and Nebraska, but it looks like there are at least as many stations selling below $2 as there are above $2.

According to AAA, the average price of regular unleaded gas was $2.06 a gallon both in Lincoln and statewide as of Monday. That's down 25 cents over the past month and 40 cents over the past year in Lincoln, and 26 and 38 cents in Nebraska.

Several of Nebraska's largest cities already have average prices below $2, however, including Columbus, Omaha and Norfolk, according to AAA.

In Lincoln, at least three dozen stations are selling gas for $1.99 or less, with prices as low as $1.84 a gallon, according to

"The most common price at gas stations in the U.S. is now $1.99 per gallon, while the second-most common price is just $1.89," Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy, said in a news release.

According to GasBuddy, there were 11 states with average gas prices less than $2 as of Monday, up from nine last week, and DeHaan noted that about one-third of all gas stations nationwide are selling unleaded for less than $2 a gallon.

The last time the average price in Lincoln was this low was in the spring of 2016, and the last time it was this low in December was 2015.

The question on most people's minds is likely how long the low prices will last.

DeHaan said prices are likely to continue dropping for another couple of weeks, and they should stay fairly low for the next month or two because of lower demand during the winter.

Beyond that, "it's complicated," he said, but consumers should expect the typical seasonal rise in prices in spring and summer.

GasBuddy plans to release its 2019 price outlook Wednesday.

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Officer, suspect remain hospitalized after Saturday morning shooting

A Lincoln police officer who was shot in the leg during an armed struggle at 48th and High streets early Saturday morning — which ended when the suspect was shot by police — remains hospitalized.

Ten-year veteran officer Josh Atkinson, 36, is recovering from non-life-threatening injuries after undergoing surgery for a gunshot wound to his leg. A second officer, Kyle Russell, was stabbed in the upper-right chest during the scuffle.

Russell, 25 and a two-year veteran of the department, was released from the hospital Sunday. 

The man shot by police, 43-year-old Christopher Brennauer, remained in critical-but-stable condition Monday.

Both officers were interviewed early Monday morning by Lancaster County Sheriff's deputies, who are leading the investigation into the shooting under an agreement between the police department and sheriff's office regarding officer-involved shootings. 

Preliminary reports indicate Brennauer stabbed Russell beyond the protection of his ballistic vest during a struggle inside the apartment, Sheriff Terry Wagner said Monday.

Russell fired his service pistol an undisclosed number of times, hitting Brennauer and then Atkinson in the leg, Wagner said. 

Atkinson didn't fire his pistol, Wagner said.

The officers had been called to the apartment on reports of a man with a knife in a disturbance with two other people, the sheriff said. Wagner declined to give further details Monday morning.

"(Brennauer) wasn't alone, and reports of that knife did come out to dispatch during that call," Wagner said. 

A 40-year-old woman was also treated at the scene for a minor hand injury.

Both officers were interviewed for the first time by investigators Monday morning, Wagner said.   

LPD Chief Jeff Bliemeister has launched a separate internal investigation examining whether the officers followed department protocol for the use of force.

This is the first officer-involved shooting in 2018 where a Lincoln police officer fired shots.

On Jan. 5, 2018, Lincoln police officers were with a deputy U.S. Marshal who shot and injured a man authorities were trying to arrest on a warrant. But the police officers didn't fire their weapons.

Atkinson had previously shot and killed an armed murder suspect in Belmont in June of 2016. A grand jury determined that the shooting was justified.

In response to Saturday's shooting, Blue Blood Brewing Company in south Lincoln started a letter campaign and is asking customers to write a note to the officers involved.

The brewery, which was founded by a former officer, will deliver the letters to the police department along with $1 from every beer sold over the weekend.

"I want to extend a thanks to all the members of the community for their support to Officer Russell and to Officer Atkinson throughout this incident," Bliemeister said. 

House Democrats have a plan to re-open government

WASHINGTON — House Democrats introduced a package of bills Monday that would re-open the federal government without approving funding for President Donald Trump's border wall with Mexico, establishing an early confrontation that will test the new power dynamic in Washington.

The House is preparing to vote as soon as the new Congress convenes Thursday, as one of the first acts after Democrats take control, according to an aide who was not authorized to discuss the plan and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Democrats under Nancy Pelosi are all but certain to swiftly approve the two bills, making good on their pledge to try to quickly resolve the partial government shutdown that's now in its second week. What's unclear is whether the Republican-led Senate, under Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will consider either measure — or if Trump would sign them into law.

"It would be the height of irresponsibility and political cynicism for Senate Republicans to now reject the same legislation they have already supported," Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement late Monday.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The package does not include the $5 billion Trump wants for the wall on the southern border.

The president told Fox News Channel in an interview Monday that he was "ready, willing and able" to negotiate. He added: "No, we are not giving up. We have to have border security and the wall is a big part of border security."

McConnell spokesman Donald Stewart made it clear Senate Republicans will not take action without Trump's backing. "It's simple: The Senate is not going to send something to the president that he won't sign," he said.

Republican senators are refusing to vote on any bills until all sides, including Trump, are in agreement. Senators were frustrated that Trump had dismissed their earlier legislation to avert the shutdown.

House Democrats did not confer with Senate Republicans on the package, but it is expected to have some bipartisan support because it reflects earlier spending bills already hashed out between the parties and chambers.

The package will include one bill to temporarily fund the Department of Homeland Security at current levels, with $1.3 billion for border security, through Feb. 8, while talks continue.

It will also include six bipartisan bills — some that have already passed the Senate — to fund the departments of Agriculture, Interior, Housing and Urban Development and others closed by the partial shutdown. They would provide money through the remainder of the fiscal year, to Sept. 30.

The House is planning two separate votes Thursday. If approved, the package would go to the Senate.

Senate Democrats support the package, according to a senior aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Without funding for Trump's wall, the package is a "nonstarter," said Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, in a tweet. He said it "will not be a legitimate answer to this impasse."

But as the shutdown drags on, pressure is expected to build on all sides for a resolution, as public parks and museums close, and some 800,000 federal workers are going without pay.

The president continued to insist Monday he wants to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, despite assertions otherwise of three confidants.

"An all concrete Wall was NEVER ABANDONED," Trump tweeted Monday. "Some areas will be all concrete but the experts at Border Patrol prefer a Wall that is see through (thereby making it possible to see what is happening on both sides)."

Trump's comments came after officials, including his departing chief of staff, indicated that the president's signature campaign pledge to build the wall would not be fulfilled as advertised. White House chief of staff John Kelly told the Los Angeles Times in an interview published Sunday that Trump abandoned the notion of "a solid concrete wall early on in the administration."

"To be honest, it's not a wall," Kelly said, adding that the mix of technological enhancements and "steel slat" barriers the president now wants along the border resulted from conversations with law enforcement professionals.

Along the same lines, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway called discussion of the apparent contradiction "a silly semantic argument."

"There may be a wall in some places, there may be steel slats, there may be technological enhancements," Conway told "Fox News Sunday." "But only saying 'wall or no wall' is being very disingenuous and turning a complete blind eye to what is a crisis at the border."

The partial government shutdown began Dec. 22 after Trump bowed to conservative demands that he fight to make good on his vow and secure funding for the wall before Republicans lose control of the House on Wednesday. Democrats have remained committed to blocking any funding for the wall, and with neither side engaging in substantive negotiation, the effect of the partial shutdown was set to spread and to extend into the new year.

In August 2015 during his presidential campaign, Trump made his expectations for the border explicitly clear, as he parried criticism from rival Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor.

"It's not a fence, Jeb, it's a WALL, and there's a BIG difference!" Trump tweeted.

Trump tweeted Monday to Democrats: "come back from vacation now and give us the votes necessary for Border Security, including the Wall."