Two Omaha Police Officers Charged with Assault and Fired for Beating a Mentally Ill Man to Death

Ryan McClarty and Scotty Payne
Ryan left and Scotty Payne McClarty

Two former Omaha police officers face charges in connection with the June 5 death of a mentally ill Oklahoma man. The men have been identified as Scotty Payne who is charged with second-degree assault, and Ryan McClarty who was charged with a misdemeanor assault

Zachary N. Bearheels
Zachary Bearheels

The charges arise from an incident wherein the former officers shocked and punched Zachary Bearheels, 29, who died after the beating. Prosecutors allege that Payne Tasered the man 12 times, and McClarty punched him 15 times.

The Omaha World Herald reports that Bearrheals was believed to be mentally ill and he had managed to free one of his hands from the handcuffs they had used to restrain him. Bearheels had been riding from South Dakota, where he was visiting relatives, to his home in Oklahoma. A driver kicked him off the bus in Omaha and Bearheels spent most of Sunday, June 4, behaving erratically in midtown Omaha. He broke the windows of a store, danced in front of another store and was at times incomprehensible to responding officers.

An autopsy revealed he had no drugs or alcohol in his system. Family members say he likely wasn’t taking his medications for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Both officers were fired after the incident.

OUR FREE OPINION 

A typical statute regarding the use of deadly force  by police officers provides language identical  to the following:

The use of deadly force by a peace officer in the line of duty is justified only when necessary:

(1) to protect the peace officer or another from apparent death or great bodily harm;

(2) to effect the arrest or capture, or prevent the escape, of a person whom the peace officer knows or has reasonable grounds to believe has committed or attempted to commit a felony involving the use or threatened use of deadly force; or

(3) to effect the arrest or capture, or prevent the escape, of a person whom the officer knows or has reasonable grounds to believe has committed or attempted to commit a felony if the officer reasonably believes that the person will cause death or great bodily harm if the person’s apprehension is delayed.

It appears that the two officers violated the law and did not act reasonably in this case.

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