A Lincoln man who was wanted on two counts of first-degree sexual assault of a child was taken to a local hospital Monday after he barricaded himself in an apartment bathroom and lit a fire as investigators tried to arrest him.
Veonta Hopper, 39, is in critical condition because of smoke inhalation, according to Lancaster County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Ben Houchin, who said officers used a Taser on Hopper as they brought him into custody at the bustling Bridgeport apartment complex near 14th and Superior streets Monday morning.
Three law enforcement officers were also transported to area hospitals after inhaling smoke in the unit where Hopper had barricaded himself as investigators served an arrest warrant. Two had been released by Monday afternoon, the sheriff’s office said.
Sheriff Terry Wagner said on Tuesday that Hopper and one LPD officer remained hospitalized as of Tuesday morning.
According to the warrant filed in Lancaster County Court, Hopper sexually assaulted two children — one between the ages of 5 and 8, the other 15 years old — multiple times between January 2016 and December 2019.
A now-10-year-old girl told police in June that Hopper raped her several times in her mother’s bed. She told investigators that Hopper had threatened to kill her if she told anyone about the incidents, according to the warrant written by LPD Investigator Lynette Russell.
A young woman, who is now 19 and not related to the 10-year-old, told investigators that Hopper raped her at his house in late 2017, when she was 15, according to the warrant. Russell wrote that the girl knew Hopper and had gone to his house after getting drunk, fearful that her mother would be upset if she went home.
The woman told police that Hopper had sex with her at least one more time after that, in a park somewhere near the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, according to Russell.
Nine years before the 2017 incident, in 2008, the same girl had told employees at the child care she attended that Hopper had sexually assaulted her, according to the warrant.
The girl was 6 years old at the time. Lincoln police interviewed Hopper in 2008, according to the warrant, but he wasn’t arrested.
His next contact with law enforcement on the matter appears to have come Monday, when investigators with the Lincoln-Lancaster County Fugitive Task Force knocked on the door of the apartment he was staying at.
Houchin said members of the task force arrived at the apartment at 9:14 a.m. There, the tenant — who was not Hopper — gave investigators permission to enter the unit.
After Hopper barricaded himself in a bathroom and negations stalled, Houchin said Hopper started a fire. When investigators noticed smoke, they forced their way into the bathroom, Houchin said.
Wagner said Tuesday it’s unclear if the fire was a suicide attempt or an attempt to avoid arrest.
Lincoln Fire and Rescue crews extinguished the fire quickly after reaching the scene.
Houchin said law enforcement would investigate the fire as an arson and planned to obtain a search warrant for the apartment unit.
Wanted man who set fire during standoff out of hospital, now in jail
By 10/11 NOW Published: Aug. 25, 2021 at 11:06 AM CDT|Updated: 9 hours ago
LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) – A man wanted for sexual assault of a child and who intentionally started a fire during a standoff in northwest Lincoln is out of the hospital and now in jail.
On Monday, the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office served a warrant for Veonta Hopper around 9:15 a.m. at an apartment near 15th Street and Hilltop Road.
LSO said Hopper barricaded himself inside the lower level apartment and started a fire.
Law enforcement said after officers entered the apartment, Hopper was combative, and he was tased.
Hopper was transported to a local hospital and on Tuesday around 6 p.m he was transported to the Lancaster County Jail.
An LPD officer who entered the apartment was also transported to the hospital for precautionary reasons due to smoke inhalation.
Police said that officer has since been released and is back at work.
According to court records, Hopper was wanted for multiple instances of sexual assault of a child.
In one case, Hopper reportedly raped a young child multiple times, who was under the age of 8 years old and was known to him. The alleged crimes took place between the start of 2016 and the end of 2019.
In another case, he reportedly sexually assaulted a young child, who was under the age of 16, in 2017. A police report was filed in July 2021, and the victim was also known to him.
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