Monday morning will mark the start of the trial against a former Omaha Police officer who lost his job after the June 2017 in-custody death of a mentally ill Oklahoma man.
Jury selection starts this week in the Second Degree Assault trial against 29 year old Scotty Payne, who is accused of using a Taser 12 times on Zachary Bear Heels. A grand jury investigation into Bear Heels' death brought charges against Payne and fellow former officer Ryan McClarty.
Payne faces two felony charges of Second Degree Assault and Unlawful Weapon Use. McClarty faces a misdemeanor charge of Third Degree Assault for repeatedly punching Bear Heels in the head after the man slipped one hand out of handcuffs.
The incident all began when Bear Heels was kicked off of a bus that was travelling from South Dakota to Oklahoma. Bear Heels spent a day wandering the streets of Omaha before police made contact with him at the Bucky's Gas Station at 60th and Center. Two female officers were able to persuade Bear Heels into one of their cruisers and made a phone call to his mother, Renita Chalepah. Chalepah and the officers agreed to have Bear Heels transported back to the downtown bus station, where the 29 year old would board another bus bound for Oklahoma.
Bear Heels would never board that bus as when an officer went to back to the cruiser to buckle his seat belt, Bear Heels got out of the car and while the four officers worked to get him back into the car, he was drug by his hair, tazed and punched. During the incident, Bear Heels went in to cardiac arrest and was declared dead at Nebraska Medicine.
Payne and McClarty were both fired by Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer, but both are appealing their firings. Chalepah has filed a wrongful death suit against the City of Omaha in August. It alleges that police used excessive force when illegally detaining Bear Heels and that officers didn't get him proper mental illness treatment.
Jury selection should take a day or two, with the trial proceedings to follow.