'Cops' crew member Bryce Dion shot and killed by police while filming robbery in Nebraska
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 08/28/2014
A Cops crew member has been killed while covering a shootout between police and an armed robber in downtown Omaha, Nebraska.
Despite wearing a bulletproof vest, Bryce Dion, a 38-year-old sound supervisor for the popular reality television show, was struck by a round of bullets through an opening in the vest below his left armpit when three police officers opened fire on an armed robbery suspect at a Wendy's restaurant, NBC News reported.
According to Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer, Dion, a single man from the Boston area, was stuck in a vestibule inside the fast-food restaurant when he was shot on Tuesday night. Dion was taken to the University of Nebraska Medical Center where he died shortly afterwards.
Dion worked onCops for seven years and had recently been promoted to sound supervisor.
"He really is one of our best," Cops co-creator John Langley told reporters at a Wednesday press conference, according to NBC News.
"This is a hard time for us. He's a very talented guy and he did something that he loved and was passionate about. We're very fortunate that over the years we've never had an incident like this. Unfortunately, it happened and we're dealing with it."
The incident reportedly began when Detective Darren Cunningham requested backup for a robbery in progress at Wendy's, and within 15 seconds, officers Brooks Riley and Jason Wilhelm arrived accompanied by Dion and a Cops cameraman named Michael Lee.
The officers entered the restaurant and confronted the suspect, later identified as 32-year-old Cortez Washington, who, according to officials, was holding a handgun that unfortunately turned out to be just an Airsoft pistol that fires plastic pellet bullets, NBC News reported.
"Three individuals inside of Wendy's witnessed Mr. Washington holding a handgun, and discharge the handgun directly at detective Cunningham and Officer Riley," Schmaderer reportedly said. "The witnesses described hearing the suspect's handgun being fired and seeing the slide recoil with the shots. The first two audible shots were from Mr. Washington."
The police officers then fired back and injured Washington several times. However, the suspect allegedly fled out of the building and ended up collapsing in the parking lot. Because Washington was "armed" with the Airsoft pistol that closely resembled a real gun, Schmaderer told reporters, "It was a very harrowing situation for the officers involved."
The Omaha Police Chief admitted he hasn't slept since the incident, which was captured by Lee's camera and resulted in a "dramatic video" reviewed by police officials and county attorneys.
"[I] will live with this forever," Schmaderer said, according to NBC News, adding that Dion had become close friends with Riley and Wilhelm among other officers in the department.
This was not Washington's first offense, as he reportedly has a criminal past which includes another robbery in Missouri. He died as well at the hospital.
The officers who engaged in the shootout -- Cunningham, Riley and Wilhelm -- are allegedly on paid administrative leave pending a grand jury investigation.
"This was as if we've lost one of our own," an emotional Schmaderer told reporters. "[Dion] was an incredible man. The tears and hugs that I got when I arrived at the hospital, I could feel everyone's pain."
In the show's 25 years of being on the air, this marks the first time aCops crew member has ever gotten killed while filming.