An investigation is underway into the death of a man who died in the custody of Omaha police after officers used a Taser on him.
The Omaha Police Department identifies the victim as 31-year-old Zachary Bearheels of Murdo, South Dakota.
Omaha police say they responded to an emergency call very early Monday morning to Bucky’s about a person who refused to leave the store. According to police, Bearheels began displaying erratic behavior. After deploying a Taser, officers called for emergency crews which rushed Bearheels to the Nebraska Medical Center. Bearheels was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.
The four officers involved have been placed on paid administrative leave in accordance with Omaha Police Department policy after an in-custody death.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska Executive Director Danielle Conrad issued a written statement on the incident:
“The ACLU extends condolences to all who have been impacted by today’s tragic incident. This is a reminder that Tasers are lethal weapons and that they should only be used as a last resort. Any time force is used, particularly when someone dies while interacting with law enforcement, a thorough investigation should occur, use of force policies should be reviewed, and trainings on de-escalation should be held.
“Since the ACLU’s 2014 investigation, Omaha Police have made improvements by making their Taser policy public. Unfortunately, the policy does not have clear written guidelines for use of a Taser on people experiencing a mental health crisis, people using medication to address mental health issues, or people under the influence of drugs or alcohol. These and other populations are at increased risk of death or serious injury when Tased. We urge the Omaha Police and other agencies to review their Taser policies and ensure they are following Department of Justice best practices.”
For ACLU’s 2014 report click here.
State law requires a grand jury investigate all in-custody deaths.