Autopsy results released for in-custody death of Zachary Bearheels

Published: Jul. 6, 2017 at 2:57 PM CDT
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Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine released autopsy information Thursday for the in-custody death Zachary Bearheels.

Kleine announced Doctor Michele Elieff determined Bearheels died from sudden death associated with excited delirium (psychomotor agitation, hallucinations, speech and thought disturbances, reduced response to painful stimuli, bizarre and combative behavior, and hyperthermia), physical struggle, physical restraint, and use of conducted energy device.

The autopsy found Bearheels had minor head injuries including some cuts on his face and scalp. She found no evidence of skull fracture or intracranial hemorrhages or brain contusions.

Bearheels died following an incident that happened early on June 5. Omaha Police deployed a TASER on Bearheels at the 60th and Center Bucky’s. Bearheels, 29, had allegedly been causing a disturbance at that location around 12:30 a.m.

Shortly after Police arrived they provided Bearheels with water, and offered to take him wherever he needed to go, as Bearheels became more erratic they eventually placed him in handcuffs and later into the back of a police cruiser.

Officers eventually managed to obtain Bearheels Identification and learned that he was reported missing in his home state, officers also contacted Bearheels' mother who attempted to speak with him.

Bearheels' mother requested that her son be placed in a crisis center until she could travel to Omaha and pick him up.

Police concluded there was insufficient cause to detain Bearheels so they decided to attempt to take him to a bus station, his mother agreed.

When an officer opened the cruiser door to put a safety belt on Bearheels he immediately exited the vehicle and began to walk away from the three officers currently on the scene.

The officers attempted to get control of Bearheels and get him into the cruiser but were unable instead pinning him up against a nearby water bottle display.

At that time the officers requested back up but due to a pursuit the request was lost in radio traffic. Officers then instructed Bearheels to cooperate and get back into the car. At this time a fourth officer appeared on scene.

Bearheels continued to be uncooperative, one officer held him down while another warned Bearheels that he would be tased if he continued to struggle.

The officers each grabbed a limb and attempted to carry Bearheels to the cruiser but he broke free and landed on his feet while still handcuffed.

At this point one of the officers deployed his taser after warning Bearheels striking him in the leg and stomach.

The taser was not totally effective so one officer grabbed Bearheels by his hair and dragged him to the ground toward the cruiser.

The officer continued to activate the taser the prongs of which were still in Bearheels.

Bearheels was then on the ground and offering no resistance while the officer activated the taser three more times. Which is a violation of OPD policy according to Schmaderer.

Eventually Bearheels got one hand out of the handcuffs and kicked and swung at an officer. The officer then top mounted Bearheels and delivered multiple punches to Bearheels head. During this Bearheels was tased again.

Due to taser deployment a rescue crew and police command were called to the location.

Omaha fire and rescue arrived and placed Bearheels on a gurney and informed OPD that Bearheels was not breathing and did not have a pulse.

Bearheels was transported to the hospital by Omaha Fire Medics with CPR inprogress. He was pronounced dead on arrival.

In total Bearheels was tased a total of 12 times, OPD policy states that after 3 times alternative methods are to be used.