Skip to main content
You are the owner of this article.
You have permission to edit this article.
'They're from all walks of life,' lead investigator says of those charged with crimes
editor's pick topical alert top story

'They're from all walks of life,' lead investigator says of those charged with crimes

From the Revisiting Lincoln racial justice demonstrations, riots 6 months later series
  • Updated
  • 0

In the early days of its investigation, Lincoln police grabbed photos from video, posted them to Crime Stoppers and started working dozens of tips from the public.

But what lead investigator Sgt. Chris Vigil found as they began to ID people caught committing crimes when protests turned to riots in late May wasn't necessarily what he expected.

"Those we have identified and charged with these crimes, they're from all walks of life," he said. "It's not consistently white males or black females or any one demographic."

And they weren't career criminals, Vigil said.

"The majority of them were first- or second-time offenders that lead, by all accounts, normal lives outside of this," he said.

Almost all were from Lincoln, with a few from towns nearby. Most were minors.

Vigil has talked with teens caught on video shooting bottle rockets at officers, looting offices and lighting fires. The vast majority have been apologetic and their parents upset, saying they'd been raised better, he said. 

"Some people, I think, didn't think through their actions beforehand and just got caught up in that mob mentality, which absolutely happens," he said. "But it's very easy in a short amount of time to ruin someone's livelihood or cause thousands or millions of dollars worth of damage."

In hindsight, it's easy to recognize that. Some have been really shocked looking back, Vigil said.

He was shocked, too — on the police line Saturday night and the days after — hearing people yell vile things, like "burn pigs," telling officers they should be dead, and shooting fireworks and throwing bottles.

"We take it, but it was really hard to listen to that and to be blamed for something that didn't happen here, that wouldn't happen here, because our administration takes the steps that it does and our agency doesn't keep those people around," Vigil said.

LPD was among agencies across the country that condemned the police-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which led to widespread protests calling for police reform, including in Lincoln.

Vigil said Lincoln police for decades have supported and defended the constitutional right to protest and have tried to ensure protesters can do it safely, even when neo-Nazis and Westboro Baptists came to town in the late ’90s and early 2000s.

"That sentiment has not changed," he said.

Sheriff's investigators track down Lincoln man who posted fake antifa ad

But, Vigil said, in May and June a small number of people used what began as peaceful protests to commit violence and crimes, undermining the cause and everything police do to try to keep protesters safe.

"It was never our intent to silence anyone's First Amendment rights to speak," he said. "But any criminal acts that we can investigate we will. And rest assured, if we can find a way to bring charges we absolutely will because it's not fair for the community, it's not fair for business owners and it's not fair to individual people to endure that."

6 months later: Incremental police reform not enough, activists say
Watch now: Shot fired amid the chaos of May 30, nearly hits Lincoln officer
Chief notes restraint shown by Lincoln officers in riot response, says force was justified
LPD video examiner scoured footage frame by frame looking for crimes
Damage estimate dropped, but May-June riots still said to cost millions


Reach the writer at 402-473-7237 or

On Twitter @LJSpilger


Sign up for our Crime & Courts newsletter

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Public safety reporter

Lori Pilger is a Norfolk native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been a public safety reporter for the Journal Star since 2005.

Related to this story

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


News Alerts

Breaking News

Husker News