Zachary Bearheels died June 5 after being shocked repeatedly with a Taser. The local district attorney said two officers judged to be the primary aggressors in the melee are being charged with assault. They have been fired.
Two former Omaha police officers are being charged with assault in connection with their efforts to subdue Zachary Bearheels, a mentally ill man who died June 5 after being shocked repeatedly with a Taser, reports the city’s World-Herald. District Attorney Don Kleine said Scotty Payne faces second-degree assault charges for shocking Bearheels 12 times and Ryan McClarty faces third-degree assault charges for punching Bearheels 13 times. McClarty will receive a ticket for the misdemeanor count. Payne will appear in court on Friday. Both have been fired and are appealing their terminations.
Kleine made the announcement as he stood beside a screen displaying a cruiser-camera video of the dramatic events that ended with Bearheels’ death. The video showed images of Bearheels being dragged by his ponytail and his belt to a police car. Kleine said McClarty and Payne were the primary aggressors in the melee. Charges against an Omaha police officer in a case involving a citizen’s death are rare. Payne’s felony charge is one of only three that have been filed against Omaha police officers in on-duty deaths in the past 30 years. Kleine said he considered charging Payne with manslaughter but was hamstrung by a coroner physician’s determination that she couldn’t connect Bearheels’ death specifically to being shocked by a Taser.