A crew member working on a taping of “Cops” was inadvertently shot and killed by a police officer during a robbery in Omaha, Nebraska, local officials said Wednesday.
Bryce Dion, an audio technician, is believed to be the first member of the “Cops” production staff killed in the 25-year history of the television show.
The production company behind “Cops,” Langley Productions, said in a statement that it was “deeply saddened and shocked by this tragedy and our main concern is helping his family in any way we can.”
Dion, 38, had been in Omaha all summer, helping with the production of future “Cops” episodes. The production company described him as a “long term member of the ‘Cops’ team and a very talented and dedicated person.” His resume lists credits on “Cops” dating back to 2009.
Todd Schmaderer, the Omaha police chief, confirmed at a Wednesday afternoon news conference that a bullet fired by an officer struck Dion during a shootout with the robbery suspect, Cortez Washington, who was also killed.
Schmaderer described Dion as a friend to the officers that he’d been embedded with.
“This is as if we lost one of our own,” Schmaderer said. “That is the grieving process we’re going through right now.”
Dion and a cameraman were traveling with police officers who responded to a robbery inside a Wendy’s restaurant on Tuesday night. Schmaderer said the suspect, Washington, fired two shots at the responding officers, who responded with a barrage of gunfire.
It was later discovered that Washington had a pellet gun that fired plastic bullets.
As Washington tried to exit the Wendy’s, he passed through a vestibule where Dion was positioned. The “Cops” cameraman was crouched down in another part of the restaurant.
After being struck by a single gunshot, Dion “collapsed just inside the east doorway,” according to the police chief.
Washington collapsed outside.
Now, as an investigation ensues, the cameraman’s footage has become evidence.
“Based on our viewing of the footage, the officers had no choice other than to respond (the way) they did,” Schmaderer said, anticipating questions about why so many shots were fired.
When asked at the press conference if the officers could have been “showing off for the cameras,” Schmaderer called that “absolutely ridiculous.”
“This was a very harrowing situation,” he said.
Asked whether “Cops” would stop production in Omaha, the police chief said, “We haven’t gotten that far.” The investigation is ongoing, he said, and is relying in part on the “Cops” team’s footage.
“Mr. Dion played the ultimate price for his service — to provide the footage of the real-life dangers that law enforcement officers face on a daily basis to television viewers throughout the world,” Schmaderer said.
The crew was reportedly scheduled to wrap up production in the coming days.
“I’ve seen six or seven of the shows that can be aired, and it just shows amazing professionalism,” Schmaderer said.
“Cops,” often called one of the original reality shows, was televised by the Fox network for 24 years. Last year it shifted over to the cable channel Spike.