OPD officers charged for role in Bearheels' death

Posted at 10:25 AM, Jul 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-27 07:16:17-04

Wednesday morning, Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine charged two Omaha Police officers with assault for their roles in the death of 29-year-old Zachary Bearheels.

Scotty Payne was charged with second-degree assault, which is a felony. Payne was the officer who used a stun gun on Bearheels 12 times. 

The other officer charged was Ryan McClarty, who was charged with third-degree assault, which is a misdemeanor. Dashcam video showed McClarty repeatedly striking Bearheels after he had been handcuffed.

The Omaha Police Officers Association disagreed with Kleine's decision to file charges, saying he succumbed to outside pressure and did give the officers due process. 

"The involved officers are entitled to understand understand how their actions, according to a certified pathologist, 'were not the cause of proximate cause of death' but somehow worthy of criminal charges," the OPOA said in a release. "The involved officers are entitled to understand how their actions that caused 'no significant injuries' were somehow worthy of criminal charges."

Both officers have already been fired and both had been with the department for almost five years. 

Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer also released a statement. 

"I am steadfast in my support of the men and women of the Omaha Police Department who perform a very difficult job day in and day out with compassion and professionalism.  However, as I said before we did not handle our encounter with Mr. Bearheels in a manner consistent with our policies and culture," he said. "Once the investigation is complete I can render my final employment decision." 

Payne faces a maximum of 20 years in prison if convicted and McClarty faces a maximum sentence of one year.