The brother of a “Cops” reality show crew member killed by gunfire during a shootout between Omaha police and a robber has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the city.
Trevor Dion is accusing police of negligence in the August 26, 2014, death of Bryce Dion, his brother.
Bryce Dion was a 38-year-old sound mixer who accidentally was hit by a police bullet during the gunbattle at the Wendy’s restaurant at 4308 Dodge St.
Bryce Dion was wearing a bulletproof vest, but a bullet struck him underneath his armpit.
Responding to a call of a robbery at Wendy’s, three police officers shot at Cortez Washington, 32, who had fired a pellet gun. Dion and another crew member had been riding with officers and shooting footage for the TV show.
Washington was a recent parolee from Kansas City who had moved to Nebraska. He was shot multiple times.
Toxicology reports showed that Washington had a high level of PCP in his system.
Washington, like Dion, died of his wounds at an Omaha hospital.
Three officers fired their weapons: Detective Darren Cunningham, Officer Brooks Riley and Officer Jason Wilhelm. All three were cleared of any wrongdoing by the department’s internal affairs unit and a Douglas County grand jury.
The longtime reality show began working with police earlier that summer. Police Chief Todd Schmaderer had agreed to let “Cops” come to Omaha in the hope that the community’s ability to see its police force in action would build public trust.
According to the city’s contract with the show, the “Cops” crew was allowed unlimited access for three months. The contract language says the city isn’t liable for injuries or death.
An Omaha police spokesman said Thursday that the department would have no comment on the suit. City Attorney Paul Kratz said the city "does not believe we have any liability in this case and we're prepared to defend it."
In his lawsuit, Trevor Dion says the department should not have invited Dion and another “Cops” crew member to ride along with officers because it was “not ready, willing or able to provide adequate instruction, oversight, supervision or protection.”
Among other things, the lawsuit says, officers were not trained well enough to have the film crew around, and they failed to take steps to ensure Dion was safe.
Police also used “excessive deadly force” in discharging their weapons and misdirected their gunfire to Dion, who was an unarmed bystander and not a threat, the lawsuit says.
“One or more of these acts and/or omissions proximately caused (Dion’s) mortal injuries, conscious pain and suffering, and wrongful death,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit seeks payment for the cost of medical care, funeral and burial expenses and transportation of Bryce Dion’s body out of Nebraska, estimated at $15,000. Damages also are being sought for Bryce Dion’s relatives. Trevor Dion also is demanding a jury trial.