Native American Activist Wants Federal Review of Bear Heels Case

Winnebago Tribe member and Native American activist Frank LaMere is pressing for answers about the death of Zachary Bear Heels and believes it’s time for federal intervention.

LaMere met with Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine Monday for more details on last week’s decision not to pursue a misdemeanor assault charge against former police officer Ryan McClarty in connection with the death of Bear Heels in 2017.

Kleine said Friday that after review and analysis of the audio and video taken from the scene there wasn't proof "beyond a reasonable doubt that McClarty was not justified in his actions."

Bear Heels died after a confrontation with Omaha police officers in which he was beaten and shocked with a taser several times. Former Officer Scotty Payne was found not guilty of felony assault and use of a deadly weapon in December. McClarty was one of three other officers involved.

LaMere says "The four officers were fired. They should have been charged with murder. One day it is my hope that they will be." LaMere also said "Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine will not try the fired Omaha Police Officer Ryan McClarty because finding him guilty would be hard. I guess that justice is hard"

He is asking congressional representatives, the U.S. Attorney General, the Legislature and Tribal leaders to support a call to have the Department of Justice come to Omaha to investigate the handling of the Bear Heels case "and other irregularities that seemingly abound and to investigate accusations that have arisen in the Native community about collusion"

After the meeting Kleine told reporters he agrees with the request to have the DOJ look at the case. "Everybody's troubled by what took place here with Zachary Bear Heels."

Kleine said LaMere asked if he was going to re-file charges, "and I just told him no, that we couldn't re-file based on the evidence that we had." Kleine says he understands the frustrations "but I don't know there was anything I could say today that would make any difference."

Kleine said all the experts they have spoken with from a law enforcement perspective said that McClarty was justified in doing what he did.

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