Two former Omaha police officers are being charged with assault in connection with their efforts to subdue Zachary Bearheels, a mentally ill man who died June 5 after being shocked repeatedly with a Taser, reports the city’s World-Herald. District Attorney Don Kleine said Scotty Payne faces second-degree assault charges for shocking Bearheels 12 times and Ryan McClarty faces third-degree assault charges for punching Bearheels 13 times. McClarty will receive a ticket for the misdemeanor count. Payne will appear in court on Friday. Both have been fired and are appealing their terminations.
Kleine made the announcement as he stood beside a screen displaying a cruiser-camera video of the dramatic events that ended with Bearheels’ death. The video showed images of Bearheels being dragged by his ponytail and his belt to a police car. Kleine said McClarty and Payne were the primary aggressors in the melee. Charges against an Omaha police officer in a case involving a citizen’s death are rare. Payne’s felony charge is one of only three that have been filed against Omaha police officers in on-duty deaths in the past 30 years. Kleine said he considered charging Payne with manslaughter but was hamstrung by a coroner physician’s determination that she couldn’t connect Bearheels’ death specifically to being shocked by a Taser.