Former Omaha Cop Faces Charges For Tasing Mentally Ill Man To Death

Former Omaha Police Officer Scotty Payne appeared in court Monday morning for his actions, including tasing the man 12 times, leading to the in-custody death of Zachary Bearheels on June 5th.

Payne, has been charged with second degree assault in the case, reported WOWT. Along with 3 other officers involved in the killing, he was fired by Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer.

The incident occurred June 5th at the 60th and Center Bucky’s. Bearheels, 29, had allegedly been causing a disturbance by licking windows at that location around 12:30 a.m.

Payne deployed a taser on Bearheels a total of 12 times before he had to be taken to the hospital.

Officers provided him with water and offered to take him wherever he needed to go. Bearheels became more erratic and officers eventually placed him in handcuffs and later into the back of a police cruiser.

The beating began when the handcuffed Bearheels was let out of the police car, he was punched, dragged by the hair, and repeatedly stunned with the taser. He was eventually taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. Authorities have listed the cause of death as “excited delirium” – a sudden death caused by agitation and distress.

WOWT reported on the court proceedings:

In court, Mandee Kampbell , assigned to the OPD Training Unit since 2014. was asked by Deputy Douglas County Attorney Jim Masteller how an officer can deploy a taser for 18 seconds. “You take the safety off and hold the trigger down for 18 seconds,” she replied, adding that the use of a taser is not to exceed 15 seconds.

When asked if the Omaha Police Department allows for the use of a taser in some circumstances, Kampbell replied, yes, when suspects are actively resisting officers.

Defense Attorney, Steve Lefler, grilled Kampbell about police procedure when using tasers and trying to restrain a suspect. Kampbell said when using a taser, officers want to avoid prolonged, repeated, continuous exposure. She said anything over 15 seconds, or three cycles of five seconds each is the threshold where the body gets negative response. She added that OPD prohibits the use of tasers when someone is handcuffed, using it to threaten or intimidate a suspect or to use it as a “come along” technique.

Lefler asked Kampbell if once Bearheels slipped out of his handcuffs, if he was still considered cuffed.

“No,” she replied. She added that officers should have regained control with a minimum amount of force. Kampbell said at some point, it is appropriate for officers to put their hands on a suspect. She said she feels a restraining hold would have been appropriate.

Kampbell said when the handcuffs were off, Bearheels was “swinging punches. Is it because he was being tased and scared or was it because he’s committing a crime. We’ll never know,” she said.

She added that verbal commands and retreating are methods that officers could have used to stop Bearheels from swinging.

Referring to the video captured of the incident, Kampbell said “I heard (officers say) ‘get down,’ ‘get in the car’ but nothing about stop resisting. He was never told he was under arrest, just get in the car.” After being tasered, Kampbell said, “You can see his (Bearheels’s) body bend backwards. If the cruiser wasn’t there, it would have pushed him all the way back. You can see his legs constrict. Even his toes are pointed.” After the tasing, Bearheels “was told to get up, which is impossible,” she said.

She said she didn’t believe any of the methods used in attempting to restrain Bearheels by the four officers was adequate.

Kampbell said Bearheels was never placed under arrest. When asked why officers handcuffed him and put him in the back of the cruiser she said it was so officers could take him to the bus station and send him back home to Oklahoma.

“And do what with him?” Masteller asked.

“Leave him there until the buses run,” Kampbell replied.

Douglas County Judge Marcena Hendrix ruled that prosecutors have enough evidence to pursue the case against Payne.

These police need to be held accountable for their parts in killing a mentally ill man who was obviously having a difficult time.  He didn’t need to die that night. Police did not need to beat him and tase him to death.

(Article By Jeremiah Jones)

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