Nebraska Crews Fighting Fire Find Man With Gun

OMAHA, Neb. --

Firefighters working an apartment fire on Monday morning discovered a person with a gun inside the apartment building.

Just before noon at 25th and Marcy streets, firefighters were already battling the blaze when they called in police for help. Officer Dan Tanner climbed a ladder to the apartment window of a man police said they considered suicidal. Other officers stood with weapons drawn in case Tanner needed help.

Rob Toscano, a resident of the complex, said he called 911.

"When the second cop car showed up, he ran inside and came running back outside, and said, 'Help, help.' So, I called 911 and said, 'Your guys are in trouble,'" Toscano said.

Firefighters cleared the building and found a man they said was "despondent." He had a gun.

Kathie Wilson is the man's neighbor.

"He's had some problems in the past and is really paranoid and really needs some help," she said.

Wilson said the man was in the process of being evicted, and that he had become increasingly isolated over the past four months.

"He had four birds and fish and two cats and he put them out last night and put the birds in the laundry room," she said.

Omaha police said Tanner knew the man from previous calls, and Tanner was able to convince the man to surrender to police. He was taken into emergency protective custody and will be medically evaluated, police said.

Firefighters were then able to finish their job.

"We knocked the fire out, came out and regrouped and went back in and completed our overall operations after they got him out," said Capt. Steve Wagner of the Omaha Fire Department.

Police said several officers were treated for smoke inhalation, and that a gun was recovered from the scene.

Six people were displaced by the fire and the Red Cross is helping them with housing.

The man in question is Eric Shoemaker, 50. Fire investigators said the cause of the fire remains under investigation, but neighbors said they believe Shoemaker set the fire himself.

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