Filed under: Announcement, Indigenous, Police, Prairies
Omaha police beat and tased a mentally-ill handcuffed man 12 times, killing him on Monday June 5th 2017.
The twenty-nine year old indigenous man, Zachary Bearheels, was on a bus going from South Dakota to Oklahoma, but at some point on his journey he had stopped taking medications for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. When Zachary didn’t arrive in Oklahoma City on Sunday, his mother Renita learned from other passengers that he was removed from the bus in Omaha, Nebraska twelve hours earlier. Renita reported him missing to the Omaha police, explaining his medical conditions and that if found to take him to the bus station or if he wasn’t lucid, to a mental health crisis center until she could accept custody. Omaha police made contact with Bearheels twice after he was reported missing.
Cops made their first contact with Bearheels at 3:50 pm about four blocks away from where he would be killed nine hours later in the south Midtown area. The first encounter happened outside a Brazilian Wax salon where he was reportedly licking windows. The chief of police claims those officers gave Bearheels water and offered to take him to a shelter or a hospital but said he became agitated and left the area, having committed no crime.
Officers Jennifer Strudl and Makyla Mead were dispatched to the Bucky’s convenience store at 6003 Center St. at 12:36 a.m. Monday. Bearheels was pronounced dead at 2:16 am.
In those 90 minutes before his death, Strudl talked to Bearheels’ mother Renita on the phone for 23 minutes while Zachary sat in the cruiser. She reports his speech was garbled and unintelligible. After the phone call, Strudl opened the door to put on Zachary’s seatbelt, reportedly to take him to the bus station at his mother’s request. When the door opened Bearheels got out of the car and began walking away and Strudl called for backup at 1:23 am. Three minutes later Officers Scotty Payne and Ryan McClarty arrived on scene.
Payne, who used a taser on the handcuffed man, and McClarty, who dragged Bearheels by his ponytail and punched him repeatedly, were recommended for termination in a press conference by the chief of police. Both cops are expected to appeal the firing via negotiations through the Omaha Black Police Officers Association.
The OPD chief says cops are trained to deploy a taser three times — any use beyond that is a “risk of health concerns.” Bearheels was shocked with a taser 12 times, the chief said, most of those while he was in handcuffs, which also goes against training.
Payne discharged the taser into Bearheels thigh and abdomen and McClarty dragged Bearheels by his ponytail and waistband toward the cruiser.
Payne continued to activate the taser. Bearheels then ended up in a seated position on the ground with his back against the rear of the cruiser. Payne continued activating the taser for the next minute and forty-five seconds, as Bearheels sat on the ground and offered no resistance. McClarty hit Bearheels in the head multiple times with his fists. While McClarty delivered the blows, Payne activated his taser. In his press conference, the chief said that, “Video showed Mr. Bearheels to be motionless on the final few strikes.”
Bearheels was not breathing and had no pulse when he was taken in handcuffs to the Nebraska Medical Center, where he died. Reports say much of the murder was caught on cruiser cameras, but none of the cops wore body cams. Video and audio will be released either after a grand jury decision or during a potential criminal court case.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said that, depending on what the evidence shows, he could decide to charge officers on his own without going through the secret grand jury proceeding. He is awaiting autopsy results and police reports to determine whether to file charges.
Mitchell Chalepah, Bearheels’ brother, said he thinks Payne, McClarty, Strudl and Mead all should serve jail time for their roles in his brother’s death.
“They took my brother’s life away. He was just trying to come home, that’s all. He just wanted to come home. I want JUSTICE for my big brother.”
At a vigil held Tuesday afternoon where Zachary Bearheels was murdered, three OPD cruisers and a gang unit SUV sat across the street in an attempt to intimidate the community. Zachary Bearheels’ family needs help paying to burying him.
Suspicious Death at Tecumseh State
On May 27th, Daelan “Lil’ Dreamer” LaMere, 22, was found unresponsive in his cell at Tecumseh State prison and was taken to a hospital. He fought to regain consciousness for 10 days after suffering a heart attack and multiple organ failure. Daelan started making improvements after being placed on dialysis, and finally moved his head and an arm on Monday night. On Tuesday evening, June 6th, his wife was awoken from a nap by a nurse saying she couldn’t read his pulse. After trying to resuscitate him for 30-45 minutes, he was pronounced dead. Daelan was 22 years old.
At the time of his death, Daelan was serving a 6-11 year sentence in Tecumseh State, (the site of ongoing inmate uprisings) for a robbery committed when he was still a juvenile. Daelan was trying to better himself and was focused on his release so he could start a family with his wife Maya.
While prison toxicology reports showed Daelan was found unresponsive due to drugs, he was NOT a drug user and was adamantly against anyone using the drugs that were found in his system. The prison waited over 24 hours before notifying his wife that he was in the ICU. Given the circumstances surrounding the overdose and his death, including details that have not been made public yet, something isn’t right.
Correct Care Solutions, a private medical staff contractor, formally terminated their contract with Tecumseh citing long-term safety concerns. It is the termination timing — on or around the same time Daelan was found unresponsive — that creates mounting suspicion about how he died. Until another medical contract can be signed, the guards that precipitate danger at Tecumseh now administer medical care care on an interim basis.
Maya is 24 years old and trying to get on her feet, and the entire situation has completely blindsided her. Aside from losing her husband and best friend, she is now left with responsibilities that no 24 year old should have to deal with. She’s been out of work for two weeks and will likely have more financial responsibilities soon, but the primary concern right now is laying Daelan to rest.
Daelan was raised by his grandma who passed away June 4th, 2010, and Maya wants him buried next to her because that’s what he would want. The cost for the burial plot and funeral is $12,000, and the funeral home is refusing to proceed with the services until all money is paid in full. Maya doesn’t have anywhere near this kind of money, so we’re starting this to help her pay for the funeral expenses. Currently, the family would have liked to have had the funeral on Friday, but it is being delayed because of financial hardships.
Whatever people can give will greatly help. Daelan may not have gotten the second chance he deserves, but please help Maya give him his final wish.