UPDATE: City prepared to defend against wrongful death lawsuit

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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -- The brother of the COPS crew member killed while working with Omaha Police has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city. The city's legal department says Omaha is not liable and plans a "vigorous" defense.

Bryce Dion was killed by police gunfire while officers were responding to a restaurant robbery on Dodge Street in 2014.

The lawsuit was filed by Trevor Dion representing the estate of his brother Bryce.

Bryce Dion, 38, had been working for the COPS television show in Omaha. He was with officers on the night of August 26, 2014 responding to a robbery at the Wendy’s at 43rd and Dodge.

Officers confronted Cortez Washington,32, at the scene. Shots were fired. Both Dion and Washington were hit by police bullets. They both died. It later turned out that the weapon Washington had was an Airsoft pellet gun.

The lawsuit filed by Trevor Dion as Bryce’s Personal Representative alleges, “negligent actions by the City, OPD and the Officer.”

The lawsuit alleges, “The City invited Bryce and his crew to accompany them (for) the purpose of promoting and projecting the image of the OPD and to promote public interest and support for OPD. OPD was to be observant of, and take all reasonable steps to, protect and assure the safety of the filming crew, including Bryce, at all times as they worked together. OPD required that Bryce and his crew be under the direction and charge of OPD Officers at all times while accompanying them, and while filming their activities.”

Regarding events that led up to the shooting, the lawsuit states, “Bryce positioned himself where told, when told, and acted in accord with police officer instructions.”

At the moment the gunfire began, the lawsuit states, “The perpetrator drew what appeared to be a pistol, but proved to be a pellet gun that simulated discharge. Police responded with live rounds of ammunition. They shot and killed the perpetrator. As they did so, they also shot and killed Bryce who was positioned as directed between at least one (1) police officer who arrived at the scene belatedly, other police officers, and the perpetrator.”

The lawyer representing the Dion family, Attorney Dave Domina, spoke with WOWT 6 News Thursday. He said,"The family understands that nobody wanted this to happen. It's an accident. It's a sad sad case. The chief of police was very appropriate about it when he spoke about it after it happened. The family appreciates that, the legal system just has to decide the legal issues and the damages question."

Domina said it hasn't been an easy process for the family.

"The mother is so devastated it is hard for her to talk about this now, the father is doing a good job of expressing his grief and handling it, and the brother is my contact who is trying to manage it for his parents," said Domina.

The plaintiff is asking for “general and special damages for Decedent’s next of kin for his wrongful death of a sum in excess of the cap on damages set forth in Neb Rev Stat § 13-926. He seeks general damages for Decedent’s Estate for the conscious pain & suffering for his estate of additional sums in excess of the Neb Rev Stat § 13-926 statutory damages cap.”

Trevor Dion is asking for a jury trial to settle the case.

The city is standing its ground. City Attorney Paul Kratz told WOWT 6 News, “We believe the City is not liable and we will vigorously defend the City against the lawsuit.”

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