Family of 'Cops' TV crew member killed by Omaha police sues

AP News
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Posted: Feb 25, 2016 3:07 PM

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The brother of a crew member for the TV show "Cops" who was killed by a police bullet in 2012 while filming a shootout has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Omaha.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday by Trevor Dion, of Haverhill, Massachusetts, on behalf of his brother's estate, alleges that Omaha police were negligent in the Aug. 26, 2014, death of Bryce Dion.

Dion, 38, was killed during a shooting at a fast-food restaurant in midtown Omaha as officers interrupted an armed robbery.

The lawsuit alleges a lack of communication and coordination among dispatchers and all officers arriving on scene contributed to Dion's death, and also blames the decision to invite the filming crew to go with officers. "Cops" is a reality TV show that depicts law enforcement officers in action.

The lawsuit describes a situation in which officers and the filming crew arrived at the restaurant and confronted the suspect, Cortez Washington. Dion positioned himself in the restaurant where and when officers instructed him, the lawsuit says.

Washington fired a realistic air gun during the confrontation, and officers returned fire. One bullet fired at Washington hit Dion at a gap in his bulletproof vest, hitting him in the chest; he died about 20 minutes later. Washington also was killed.

The officer who fatally shot Dion arrived at the scene after the TV crew and first-responding officers, according to the lawsuit.

"It is not known whether the newly arriving officer was informed that the first officers at the scene were accompanied by a television filming crew deployed in strategic locations to film events as they occurred," the lawsuit said.

Three officers involved were placed on leave while an investigation was conducted and returned to work about three weeks later when Dion's shooting was determined to have been an unforeseeable accident.

The lawsuit also challenges a state law that caps damages against government entities at $1 million, saying it's unconstitutional and that the family seeks more than the cap allows.

Trevor Dion's attorney, David Domina of Omaha, said Dion and his parents decided to sue after the city ignored a tort claim filed last year. Under state law, governments have six months to accept, deny or ignore such claims. After the six months, the claiming party may sue.

Omaha City Attorney Paul Kratz said Thursday that the city will fight the suit.

"The city does not believe we have any liability in this situation," Kratz said.

An Omaha police spokesman referred questions to Kratz's office.