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September shooting deaths at Offutt Air Force Base being investigated as murder-suicide

Tech. Sgt. Zachary Firlik, 35, and his wife Kari, 35, who were found dead Sept. 28 in off-base housing near Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.

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By ROSE L. THAYER | STARS AND STIPES Published: October 28, 2019

The shooting deaths of an airman and his wife last month in their off-base housing near Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., are being investigated as a murder-suicide, according to court documents.

Members of the Offutt Security Force believed the deaths were a murder-suicide, according to an affidavit filed with the Sarpy County District Court seeking a search warrant for the home of Tech. Sgt. Zachary Firlik, 35, and his wife Kari, 35, who were found dead Sept. 28 in the house. The document filed with the court is dated Oct. 4 and it does not indicate which spouse is suspected to be the shooter.

A spokeswoman for the Air Force Office of Investigations at Offutt, which is leading the investigation, declined to comment Monday because the investigation is ongoing.

The Firliks’ home is part of the Rising View community, a section of which is base housing and located west of the main military installation in the Omaha suburb of Bellevue. Because the deaths occurred off base, county law enforcement also responded to the incident.

A child in the house called 9-1-1 at about 8:30 p.m. about the shooting, according to the court documents. The Omaha World-Herald reported it was the Firliks’ 5-year-old daughter who ran to a neighbor’s house to call the police after hearing gunshots.

After searching the home, Sarpy County investigators found a black, six-shot Taurus revolver, four spent bullet casings and two rounds in the upstairs master bedroom near the two bodies.

The Firliks had been married for seven years, Kari’s father, Jerry McManigal, said in the week following the deaths.

“I was unaware of any signs this incident was coming,” he said.

Zachary Firlik was a 17-year veteran of the Air Force and an assistant flight chief assigned to the 55th Security Forces Squadron at Offutt since April 25. The couple previously lived at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, then Travis Air Force Base in California. Since March, the couple had been near Kari Firlik’s family in Nebraska.

Originally from Sacramento, Calif., Zachary Firlik’s family buried him Oct. 9 in Lake Havasu, Ariz., according to his obituary.

Four days prior, Kari Firlik’s family buried her in Blair, Neb., according to her obituary.

McManigal said he was very close with his daughter. She worked in his dental office as an insurance coordinator and was working on a bachelor's degree in cybersecurity. 

“She bragged about Zach being military police often and I was so happy for her,” McManigal said. “I didn’t know Zach as well because he was mostly quiet when he was around me, but he showed pride in being an Air Force member and he took his job very seriously and much of his off-duty persona reflected that pride.”

McManigal is now caring for the Firlik’s daughter, as well as his daughter’s two older children, ages 17 and 12, according to a GoFundMe campaign raising money for the children’s care.

thayer.rose@stripes.com
Twitter: @Rose_Lori

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