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OPD Chief wants two officers fired after 'several' violations found in deadly taser incident

Posted: 3:52 PM, Jun 09, 2017
Updated: 2017-06-11 11:44:38-04
Two officers fired for deadly tazer incident
Two officers fired for deadly tazer incident
Two officers fired for deadly tazer incident

Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer wants two officers off his force following a deadly incident involving a taser early Monday morning.

A total of four officers are on paid administrative leave after a mentally ill man from Oklahoma died in police custody.

TIMELINE

Schmaderer presented a timeline of the night in question at a news conference Friday. Throughout the incident, the chief says Bearheels was never fully rational but, at some point, did stop resisting. 

Schmaderer says after that he was still shocked with a taser and hit on the head. 

Before any struggles took place, his family had told officers he was going through a mental crisis. Officers spoke with Bearheels mother for more than 20 minutes. 

Bearheels was traveling from South Dakota to Oklahoma, where he's from. He was kicked off a bus in Omaha and was lost. He ended up at a Bucky's gas station on 60th and Center.

His mom called Omaha police when she didn't see Bearheels get off the bus and was told he was let out in Nebraska. She told officers Bearheels' history of mental health issues and asked he be taken to a crisis center or back to the bus station. 

At one point, officers had her speak to Bearheels, but his speech was garbled. After the phone call one of the officers went to buckle Bearheels’ seatbelt and Schmaderer says Bearheels got away from the car and officers. 

Several struggles ensued, he said. 

The initial shocks from the taser weren’t enough to subdue Bearheels, Schmaderer said, but at some point he did stop resisting. 

Schmaderer says he was shocked a total of 12 times, dragged across the pavement by his hair and hit on the head. 

"He was sitting by the rear cruiser. Sitting there. Several use of force violations occurred during that time period,” Schmaderer said. “And that time period is about 1 minute and 45 seconds. I would surmise the county attorney's office is looking hard at that one minute and 45 seconds." 

The chief is recommending the firing of two officers; the other two are still under internal investigation. 

“The Omaha Police Department made a mistake on this occasion and we're doing whatever we need to to correct it,” Schmaderer said.

BEARHEELS' HISTORY

According to family, Bearheels had suffered from mental health issues since grade school. His younger brother Mitchell Chelepah says Bearheels was diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and anxiety.

Chalepah says his brother may have gone off his medication before the deadly encounter with police. Chalepah says his brother would become erratic and difficult to understand, but not combative. 

THE OFFICERS INVOLVED 

Jennifer Strudl, 4 years and 10 months with the police department, assigned to the Uniform Patrol Bureau of the Southwest Precinct. Schmaderer says Strudl has crisis intervention training and could be seen using her training to try to talk down Bearheels. 

Makyla Mead, 4 years and 10 months with the police department, assigned to the Uniform Patrol Bureau of the Southwest Precinct.

Scotty Payne, 4 years and 10 months with the police department, assigned to the Uniform Patrol Bureau of the Southwest Precinct. Schmaderer says Payne deployed the Taser used on Bearheels. According to our partners at the Omaha World-Herald, he is one of the officers who may be fired as a result of the incident. 

Ryan McClarty, 4 years and 10 months with the police department, assigned to the Uniform Patrol Bureau of the Southwest Precinct. According to our partners at the Omaha World-Herald, he is one of the officers who may be fired as a result of the incident. 

AUTOPSY RESULTS 

An autopsy was conducted on Bearheels. The results of the testing are not yet back, however, Schmaderer says blunt-force trauma has been ruled out in the preliminary investigation.

Bearheels’ brother Mitchell Chalepah says the body of Bearheels has returned to Oklahoma. 

POSSIBLE CHARGES 

Once the autopsy results are in, Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine will decide whether or not to proceed with criminal charges.

"I have serious concerns about what I've seen so far and the question is, did the officers use excessive force, there are questions about the deployment of the taser, the manner it was used and how it was used,” Kleine told 3 News Now on Thursday. 

Kleine told 3 News Now it is possible inexperience affected the officers’ ability to properly handle the situation. 

HIRING PRACTICES 

Schmaderer says inexperience played a big role in the deadly events. 

He wants to introduce a new hiring practice - lateral police recruit classes. Veteran officers from other law enforcement agencies could apply to the Omaha Police Department and go through a faster hiring process. 

 

Schmaderer says it would help the department keep more experienced officers.