Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer is recommending that two of the four officers involved in the tasing death of a mentally ill man be fired, the Washington Post reports.
The incident took place early June 5.
The suspect, 29 year old Zachary Bearheels, was dancing around erratically outside a local convenience store when officers arrived on the scene. Officers described his verbal communications as “garbled” while appearing aggressive and inebriated. Officers proceeded to narrow in and apprehend the suspect when Bearheels decided to resist and eventually resort to physical force after an officer tried to fasten his seat belt in the police cruiser. He then proceeded to step out of the vehicle while continuing to resist police apprehension. It was then that officers tased him 12 times with a stun gun before rushing him to the hospital where he was ultimately pronounced dead.
The incident remains difficult to contextualize since all video and audio recordings of the event are being withheld from the public eye until judicial deliberations commence. Although Bearheels mother claims he suffers from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, it is difficult for officers to diagnose an unfamiliar persons mental stability in the line of duty, especially in the face of imminent conflict. However, in Chief Schmaderer’s news conference, he unequivocally condemned his officers actions, stating “In this incident, despite our extensive training, we failed.”
Schmaderer went on to explain that the officers, all four of which had under five years field experience, were instructed during training to limit taser usage to three shocks. If unsuccessful, officers were instructed to pursue new tactics due to elevated “risk of health concerns.” Although the officers breached protocol, there is no federal statute mandating limitations on taser usage.
Schmaderer went on to declare that “On this call seemingly no one took charge and our training and policies were not followed and a tragic outcome was the result,” taking no personal responsibility for inadequate procedures and protocol.