Officials say three of four Nebraska police officers who were fired for their involvement in the stun gun-related death of a mentally ill Oklahoma man have been reinstated
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OMAHA, Neb. — Three of four Nebraska police officers who were fired for their involvement in the stun gun-related death of a mentally ill Oklahoma man in 2017 have been reinstated, police and union officials said Thursday.
However, the arbitration panel upheld the firing of the fourth former officer, Scotty Payne, the Omaha Police Department and the Omaha Police Officers’ Association said in joint statement.
Payne was acquitted in 2018 of second-degree assault and use of a weapon in the June 5, 2017, death of 29-year-old Zachary Bearheels.
Payne and the three other officers were called to an Omaha convenience store because Bearheels was refusing to leave. He had been wandering Omaha streets after being kicked off a bus headed to Oklahoma.
Police cruiser video shows Payne using a stun gun to repeatedly shock Bearheels and Officer Ryan McClarty punching the man. Some of the blows came after Bearheels was on the ground and not resisting. The two other officers did not assault Bearheels, but did not intervene on his behalf. An autopsy determined Bearheels didn’t die directly from the shocks but from excited delirium.
The arbitration panel reinstated McClarty. Prosecutors dropped a misdemeanor assault charge against him last year. He was issued a 20-day suspension and a year of probation during which he will be fired for any use-of-force violation.
Two other officers, Jennifer Strudl and Makayla Mead, were reinstated with full pay.
“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 statement read.
Matt Saathoff, an Omaha attorney who represented the four officers in arbitration, declined to comment Thursday.