2 Omaha Cops Fired For The Murder Of Zachary Bearheels


Twelve electric shocks by a Taser — each five seconds long.

Three of the jolts when the mentally ill man did not resist.

Multiple punches to the head even as he sat motionless and unarmed.

The troubling actions by two Omaha police officers Monday morning while they attempted to control Zachary Bearheels, who later died, violated numerous policies, Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said in a Friday afternoon press conference.

Officer Scotty Payne, who used the Taser on the handcuffed man, and Officer Ryan McClarty, who dealt the blows, were recommended for termination, The World-Herald learned. Schmaderer could not say which of four officers involved in the crucial parts of the encounter with Bearheels were being fired, for legal reasons.

“In this incident, despite our extensive training, we failed,” Schmaderer said. “The Omaha Police Department made a mistake on this occasion, and we’re doing whatever we need to to correct it.”

If Schmaderer’s decision to fire the two officers is confirmed by the city’s Human Resources Department, Payne and McClarty can appeal to the Personnel Board or through an arbitration hearing.

The chief said all officers will receive refresher training, and the department plans to beef up field supervision and recruit veteran law enforcement officers from other agencies.

Schmaderer said inexperience was a factor in the fatal encounter outside the Bucky’s convenience store at 60th and Center Streets.

“It did not appear that anybody took charge of this call,” he said. “We were with Mr. Bearheels for almost an hour … and that’s too long.”

Bearheels, 29, was not breathing and had no pulse when he was taken to the Nebraska Medical Center, where he died.

Each of the four officers has had less than five years on the force. But Schmaderer said all four had received extensive training on use of force, de-escalation techniques and dealing with the mentally ill.

Officers Jennifer Strudl and Makyla Mead, who were at the scene before Payne and McClarty arrived, have been placed on paid administrative leave pending an internal investigation.

Much of the encounter was caught on cruiser cameras, but video and audio will be released either after a grand jury decision or during a potential criminal court case.

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