- Posted August 28, 2014 by
Omaha Police Chief Confirms COPS Crew Member Killed by Friendly Fire
After a night of violence in Omaha, NE, Police Chief Todd Schmaderer hosted a press conference in which it was confirmed that COPS TV crew member, Bryce Dion, was fatally shot at the Wendy's fast food outlet on 43rd and Dodge in Omaha at approximately 9:20 p.m. on August 26, 2014 during a robbery.
A call had been placed to the Omaha Police Department at approximately 9:05 p.m. regarding another robbery at a Little Caesar's pizza at 637 N. Saddle Creek Road. At approximately 9:20 p.m., Detective Darren Cunningham called for backup at the Wendy's restaurant on 43rd and Dodge for a robbery in progress. Officers Brooks Riley and Jason Wilhelm arrived on scene within 15 seconds.
Riley and Wilhelm were accompanied by two COPS crew members, Bryce Dion and Michael Lee, producers of the popular television series COPS. Immediately after arriving, officers entered the building, accompanied by Dion who was working sound equipment, and Lee who was operating the video camera.
Officers immediately came in contact with the suspect, Cortez Washington, who was brandishing a weapon later identified as an airsoft gun. (Picture attached provided by the Omaha Police Department). Cunningham described the suspect as wearing a black hoodie and white bandana.
A confrontation ensued and multiple shots were fired inside the location. Witnesses described seeing the suspect discharge his weapon directly at the officers, who returned fire. Washington was hit multiple times but fled through the east doors of the location before collapsing in the parking lot.
He was then placed in handcuffs while the weapon was retrieved. Reportedly, the airsoft gun was one which fires plastic pellet bullets and fires in a manner which looks and sounds like a hand gun.
COPS crew member Bryce Dion was shot, and collapsed inside of the east entryway. Both he and the suspect were transported by the Omaha Fire Rescue squad to the Nebraska Medical Center, where both were later pronounced deceased.
During the press conference held at 2:30 p.m. CST on August 27, Police Chief Schmaderer expressed sincere emotion in response to the event, and noted that losing Dion was like losing one of their own on the police force.
Schmaderer previously accepted a proposal from Langley Productions to come to Omaha, to provide transparency in OPD activities. During the press conference on Wednesday he stated, "I don’t regret it in one sense because I wanted to be transparent for the community. I thought transparency was the way to instill and better police community relations. Personally, I will live with this forever and on a – if I’d of known this would happen, I wouldn’t have done it." Langley Productions had been filming in Omaha since June.
Reportedly, at least 20 to 30 rounds were fired by Omaha police. The amount of rounds fired was not confirmed by Schmaderer, but he did say that the bullet that struck Dion, was sent by "friendly fire".
Schmaderer confirmed that the film crew members were donning ballistic vests, and that the round that struck Dion, entered through his left arm, slipping through an open area, then striking his chest.
According to Schmaderer, a grand jury will convene in the investigation, although time frame on that is unclear.
Bryce Dion, originally from the Boston area, was recently promoted to supervisor on the television series and COPS only had one week left of filming in the Omaha area.
John Langley, head of Langley Productions which produces the television series stated, "...obviously this is going to effect that time because we have our other crew members are in counseling...the main thing for us is we want to make sure that Bryce is respected and people know he was a great guy and a hard worker and he was passionate."
The suspect had a lengthy criminal history which included a previous robbery arrest in the state of Missouri. In August of 2011, he started parole in Kansas City, and was later transferred to Nebraska state parole in September of 2013. His parole was due to expire in June of 2017. He also had convictions in Kansas for eluding police, drug charges and property damage.