Three of four OPD officers involved in Bearheels death allowed to return to duty

Published: Apr. 23, 2020 at 1:10 PM CDT
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Three of the Omaha Police officers who responded to a call that resulted in the 2017 in-custody death of Zachary Bearheels can rejoin the force, according to a 125-page arbitration decision handed down Wednesday.

Investigators determined that Bearheels, a Native American,

after he 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

Thursday's joint announcement from OPD Chief Todd Schmaderer and Mayor Jean Stothert summarized the collective bargaining agreement reached by OPD and the Omaha Police Officers' Association:

  • Scotty Payne's termination was upheld. In December 2018, a jury found him not guilty of felony assault and use of a deadly weapon.
  • Ryan McClarty's termination was reduced to a 20-day suspension, with a last-chance agreement for a period of one year. "Any finding of a violation of the use of force policy within that year will result in his termination," the release states. In March 2019, Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine dismissed the misdemeanor assault charge filed against McClarty
  • Jennifer Strudl and Makayla Mead will be reinstated with full pay. They were determined to have violated a minor policy, and no disciplinary action was taken.

"Though it is fair to say that both the Police Department and the Police Officers’ Association are each disappointed in some of the conclusions that were reached by the panel of arbitrators, both parties are committed to accepting the decision and moving forward," the release states. "Both parties support due process for our officers and the arbitration process."

All four officers had appealed their terminations to union arbitration, which was delayed by the criminal procedures for Payne and McClarty, the release states.

Those officers who choose to return to service will be required to complete refresher training at the Omaha Police Academy before returning to duty, according to the release.

“It’s time to move forward. Omaha police officers have a very difficult job and my focus is on keeping my officers safe in the Coronavirus environment while simultaneously protecting the city," Schmaderer said in the release.