March 15, 2019
Wrongful Death Lawyer
Police in Omaha, Nebraska, had long resisted efforts from the famous COPS television show to film in the city and follow their offices. However, according to the Omaha World Herald, Chief Todd Schmaderer had a change of heart in mid-2014 because his officers had taken part in an embarrassing incident. (https://www.omaha.com/news/courts/city-of-omaha-in-court-over-wrongful-death-lawsuit-involving/article_0659daec-4f50-56a1-afd9-ae757d790923.html)
While the chief did not identify the event at the court hearing in the wrongful death case of COPS crew worker Bryce Dion, many believe it was the event in March 2013 in which an officer was seen manhandling a driver after towing his vehicle away, and other officers were caught chasing the driver’s relatives into a house on video. The chief, who tried to fire all six officers involved in that scandal, said in court that he just wanted people to see that his officers were better than what was seen in that case.
Unfortunately, his decision backfired. In August of 2014, 38-year-old COPs crew member Bryce Dion died when Omaha officers opened fire on a person robbing a fast food establishment.
Now, Dion’s family has brought a wrongful death claim against the City of Omaha, with the courts deciding whether the city bears liability for the crew man’s death.
The family’s legal representation says the city and police department failed in their duty to protect the crew member, who was not harmed when they responded to a call. They also allege the officer who accidentally shot Dion should not have been shooting at the fleeing robbery suspect in the first place.
Three police officers fired 36 times at the suspect after he pointed a gun at them and fired. Although the officers didn’t know it at the time, it turned out all the suspect had was a pellet gun.
Dion had been with the two officers involved in the shooting, and he had taken cover near the fast food restaurant’s entrance when shots were being fired. One of the officer’s bullets hit the crewman in his armpit, an area the bulletproof vest he was wearing did not cover.
The city is disputing it was responsible for protecting Dion, arguing that he knew the inherent risks of his job, which is why he was wearing the vest. They also allege he had at least eight seconds to leave the fast food eatery but decided to stay.
According to the city’s attorney, the officers had to fire at the robbery suspect because he fired at them several times, and they did not know that Dion was in the vestibule behind the suspect at the time.
In court, the chief said he did know there was a chance of injury or death to any person who rode with his officers. Before this, no one had been killed in the 20 years the show had been on air, although there were some injuries.
The family’s attorney says there was close to a minute between the robbery call and the arrival of the officers, which means the two officers with Dion had time to tell him to stay in the car given the violent nature of the crime.
How this case plays out will likely impact other risky reality shows going forward. If you have lost a loved one due to the acts or lack of action by another party, talk to a wrongful death lawyer Denver, CO trusts about your case.
Thanks to Richard J. Banta, P.C. for their insight into personal injuries and wrongful death lawsuits.