Bear Heel's family releases statement regarding the reinstatement of 3 officers

Published: Apr. 29, 2020 at 8:29 PM CDT
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Last week, it was announced that three of the four officers involved in Zachary Bear Heel's death would be allowed to return to duty, today Bear Heel's family released a statement.

The statement reads,

"On Thursday April 23, a joint statement from the City of Omaha and the Omaha Police Department was released confirming that three of the four officers who killed our family member, Zachary Bear Heels, will be reinstated to the police force. Our family has prepared a short statement to address this announcement. Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said “it’s time to move forward” and mentioned the Coronavirus pandemic. We are deeply disappointed not only in the decision to employ such dangerous individuals on your police force, but also in the use of the pandemic to undermine the death of a loved and special human being. We are insulted that Officers Jennifer Strudl and Makyla Mead were deemed to only have committed “minor policy” violations. We do not agree with this decision. Officers Strudl and Mead are responsible for the death of Zachary Bear Heels in conjunction with Officers Scotty Payne and Ryan McClarty. Also, we need accountability from Sgt. Erik Forehead who allegedly referred to Zachary as “[expletive] retard” shortly before the officers beat him, dragged him my his hair, and tased him 12 times. What took place June 5, 2017 was a collective team effort to perform an inhumane, insulting, culturally-inappropriate killing of a human being. What we see here is a complete systemic failure in the Omaha Police Department, Police Chief Todd Schmaderer, all officers involved, and the City of Omaha. An innocent life was lost and the Omaha Police Department could hurt more people if it continues to condone an atmosphere where officers, tasked to “protect and serve”, can allegedly call a special needs person a “retard”, kill them, and continue on their path of career development. Brutally beating and tasing an unarmed mentally-disabled person, and barely suffering any consequences is an extremely dangerous path for America. We will continue to seek justice for our son, brother, nephew, grandson, uncle, tribal member, and friend, Zachary Bear Heels.

Zachary Bear Heels died in a parking lot at 60th and Center while in police custody in June 2017.

Investigators determined that Bear Heels was shocked 12 times with a TASER, and punched and dragged by his hair by officers. As a result of the investigation, officers and recruits were required to participate in a two-hour cultural awareness class.

there was a joint announcement from OPD Chief Todd Schmaderer and Mayor Jean Stothert summarizing the collective bargaining agreement reached by OPD and the Omaha Police Officers' Association.