Verdict reached in Payne trial

Published: Dec. 10, 2018 at 3:13 PM CST
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A jury has declared former officer Scotty Payne not guilty in charges of felony assault and use of a deadly weapon.

The jury began deliberations on Monday, and a verdict was reached just before 4 p.m.

Payne was accused of felony assault for using a TASER 12 times on 29-year-old Zachary Bear Heels, whose heart stopped shortly after.

The jury began deliberating at 9 a.m. to decide if Payne is guilty of the assault.

Both prosecuting and defending teams were in court, as well as Bear Heels' family. They all waited as deliberations went on.

The largest factor in the case is deciding whether or not Payne used the TASER with deadly force.

A source close to the prosecution told 6 News that the jury requested to view video evidence of the confrontation again at 1:30 p.m.

After the verdict, Payne's defense attorney, Matthew Burns, was moved to tears.

"This was a travesty. A witch hunt," he said.

Payne himself did not stop to talk to media, but simply said that he loves Omaha on his way out.

Burns and Omaha Police Officers Association President Anthony Conner said after the trial that their next step is to help Payne get his job back.

Bear Heels' mother, Renita Chalepah, was distraught with the verdict.

"I'm his mother. I've seen him in pain, and that hurts me. When my children hurt, my son's hurt and crying, it touches my heart because I'm crying with him. I know the pain," she said.

The special prosecutor for Bear Heels said that although he's disappointed in the verdict, he hopes the case sheds light on how law enforcement needs to treat people with mental illnesses.

Mayor Jean Stothert and Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer released a joint statement saying, "We respect the jury's verdict. The jurors heard and considered the evidence presented and made a decision. We again off our condolences to Mr. Bear Heels' family. Now is the time for the city to heal and work together."

The Native American community said they plan to go to the mayor with their disappointment in the verdict of the trial. They said this fight is not over.