Kearney cop watcher arrested for terroristic threats after incident outside police station
KEARNEY, Neb. — It’s an anxious time to be a law enforcement officer in Kearney.
On top of an alarming spike in violent crime over the past 10 days, police say a self-proclaimed cop-watcher has been harassing law enforcement over the past few months. The alleged harassment reached a climax here outside the law enforcement center around midnight Saturday night. 57-year-old Marcus Ditchman pulled up and started a Facebook livestream on his phone. Police Chief Bryan Waugh says Ditchman called police and requested to speak to a supervisor to file a complaint.
“Those interactions continued to escalate. Mr. Ditchman became very angry towards police. He became very angry about the situation that he was wanting to report,” Waugh said.
In the 29-minute live video, Ditchman appeared upset about cars that had driven by his house. He questioned officers, then made vulgar demands as one approached his vehicle.
“At one point in time in the video, Mr. Ditchman mentions that he has dogs in the back of his vehicle and that he made a comment that he was going to release the dogs to, in essence, attack the police officers,” Waugh said.
Specifically, he counted up to five and then said, “I swear to God, I will let these dogs go and they will munch the f— out of you.” A police affidavit says he was holding the door handle next to the dogs while making the threat. That comment, combined with previous claims from Ditchman that he trained his dogs to attack officers, eventually led police to arrest Ditchman for terroristic threats.
“Knowing that information, when you combine all of the context of the situation, that does rise to a higher level of awareness for our officers who were interacting with him that evening,” Waugh said.
Ditchman operates KNRW Nighthawk CopWatchers Radio, which isn’t an FCC-licensed radio station. The media group publishes live-streamed videos focused on search and rescue, storm chasing, and, more recently, trying to prove corruption within law enforcement.
Waugh says the group has showed up at traffic stops, calls for service and more.
“Showing up at the law enforcement center and videotaping our employees coming to work in the morning, shouting obscenities to them as they come into the building, shouting obscenities at staff members who are not even police officers,” Waugh said.
Waugh and Buffalo County Sheriff Neil Miller are the most frequent targets on the Facebook page.
“I will not say it hasn’t been challenging for me both professionally and personally," Waugh said. "But we’ve done so with understanding our role with understanding our role as law enforcement in this community and the scrutiny that we may be faced with.”
The content is similar to a national trend of so-called first amendment auditors, who film police in an attempt to ensure the officers follow the law.
“There are times where those individuals may cross into another dimension of that first amendment, or that perceived first amendment speech, which is no longer protected," Waugh said. "That time comes when there’s a threat made to a police officer.”
Ditchman appeared for an arraignment in county court Monday afternoon. He filed bond at 10% of $10,000.
NCN talked with Ditchman over email. He says he plans to expose corruption within KPD and that he’ll file a lawsuit against those involved.