UPDATE, with Omaha police chief news conference: “This was a friendly-fire situation. It was an officer’s round that struck Mr. Dion,” Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said at a news conference that just wrapped, discussing the shooting death of Cops crew member Bryce Dion last night during police response to a robbery at a Wendy’s restaurant.
Cortez Washington, the robbery suspect, fired the first two shots and while his weapon was discovered to be an Airsoft pistol that does not fire bullets, Schmaderer said the shots produced a muzzle flash and sounded like actual gunshots to the police officers.
“Like I said earlier, his gun was an Airsoft gun and looked and sounded like it was real,” Schmaderer said. Schmaderer said the three officers who had entered the restaurant fired at Washington who ran out of the restaurant’s east door; Dion was in the east doorway and was hit. Dion was wearing a ballistic vest, but the bullet “came in under his left arm and slipped in between the vest, where there is an open area.”
Local media have reported 30 shots were fired by officers responding to the scene. Schmaderer declined to confirm that because, he said, “it is the subject of a grand jury investigation.” But he added the reporters “inference” is that the number of shots fired by the three police officers who went into the restaurant was excessive, “and I don’t believe it was.” He vehemently denied suggestions the hail of bullets suggests the police were showing off for the Cops camera.
“Any criticism is unmerited. The grand jury will see this video, and I’m confident they will come to same conclusion,” he said of the footage the Cops crew had shot at the scene, which he said has been turned over to authorities for the investigation. The three officers have been placed on paid administrative leave, Schmaderer said, adding that a grand jury has been convened with regard to the shooting.
The police chief had asked Cops to come to town to follow his officers this summer. In June, local media reported he hoped the TV show’s taping of his force in action would improve relations with the community. When asked about that today, he replied, “We had some rough times, and we had an issue that occurred about a year and a half ago.” He said he’d asked the reality series to spend the summer with his force “to put a period on the past and show how professional and adept we are.”
John and Morgan Langley attended the news conference — they’d just flown to town and came directly to the news conference.
“Bryce been with us seven years, and he really is one of our best,” John Langley said during the news conference. Dion, who had recently been promoted to sound supervisor, “was a very talented guy and he did something he loved and was passionate about. We’ve been very fortunate over the years that we’ve never had an incident like this. Unfortunately this happened and we’re dealing with it and it’s a very sad day for us.” Dion, from Lawrence, Massachusetts, lived in Santa Monica; he worked for Langley Productions on the series Jail, Undercover Stings and seven seasons of Cops.
PREVIOUS: Bryce Dion, a longtime crew member of reality TV series Cops, has died after being shot while filming for the show Tuesday night. It happened during a standoff between police and a robbery suspect at a Wendy’s fast-food restaurant in Omaha, NE.
“We are deeply saddened and shocked by this tragedy, and our main concern is helping his family in any way we can,” said this morning in a statement. “Bryce Dion was a long-term member of the Cops team and a very talented and dedicated person. We mourn his passing. An investigation is ongoing and we are cooperating with local authorities.” Spike TV, the current network home of the long-running show, referred emails to Langley Prods.
PREVIOUS, 9:30 AM: NBC’s Omaha affiliate WOWT reported this morning, “Gunfire on Dodge Street Tuesday night left a robbery suspect dead, and law enforcement sources tell WOWT 6 News Wednesday morning the Cops television show crew member critically wounded has died.”
The crew for the long-running series was with police who responded to the armed robbery call around 9:20 PM local time, The Omaha World-Herald reported, adding that the show crew had been filming in the city for much of the summer. The paper described the restaurant’s windows as being riddled with bullet holes from the gunfire.
According to various press reports, Omaha Deputy Police Chief Dave Baker said the robbery suspect held a clerk at gunpoint and demanded cash before walking outside to find police waiting. Shots were fired, and the robbery suspect was wounded, as was the crew member. Both were taken to the Nebraska Medical Center, where the suspect was pronounced dead Tuesday night.
Cops debuted in March 1989, and ran for more than two decades on Fox. Camera crews followed police, federal agents, etc., without narration. Spike TV picked up the show after its Fox run; on its website, Spike describes the series as “the seminal reality ride-along show that forever changed the TV landscape,” and “provides unprecedented access into the daily lives and work of police officers, constables, and sheriff’s deputies from around the country.”