OMAHA (CN) – The family of a “Cops” film crew member who was shot to death by an Omaha police officer while embedded with the police sued the city for wrongful death on Tuesday.
Bryce David Dion, who had worked on “Cops” for seven years as a sound engineer, was killed on Aug. 26, 2014 while filming a standoff between police and an armed robber inside a Wendy’s restaurant in central Omaha.
Dion, 38, and his crew were “invited by the Omaha Police Chief to work directly with police and to accompany them when responding to calls,” his brother, Trevor, says in his complaint in Douglas County Court. He sued on his own behalf, for his mother and father, and on behalf of his brother’s estate.
Bryce Dion was standing where police officers had told him to, when a late-responding officer shot him, the family says.
The robber, Cortez Washington, fired a pellet gun, and officers responded with real bullets and killed him too.
Bryce Dion, however, “engaged in no wrongful conduct. He violated no directions of officers and deployed as directed,” the complaint states.
Omaha invited the film for the purpose of “promoting and projecting the image of the OPD and to promote public interest and support for OPD,” the Dions say in the complaint.
“Mistakes happen. When firearms are involved they can be fatal,” the family’s attorney David Domina told Courthouse News.
“Here, the special relationship between Mr. Dion and the police may not have been fully communicated, the officer who fired the fatal shot may not have been adequately informed, or some other error or omission may account for what occurred.”
Dion was the first crewmember in the 25-year history of Fox’s longest-running show to be killed during production. He was wearing a bulletproof vest, according to police reports, but the bullet entered his torso near his armpit in a spot where he was unprotected.
Fox is not a party to the lawsuit.
The incident shocked the Omaha community during the turbulent summer of 2014, as images of the bullet-riddled Wendy’s circulated on social media, causing speculation on how many bullets police fired to cause the damage.
“The Dion family is deeply hurt. It respects the obvious fact that Mr. Dion’s death was produced by a tragic mistake. The legal system exists, in part, to do what can be done to address such mistakes,” Domina said.
The mayor’s office and the city attorney declined comment Tuesday.
The family seeks funeral expenses and damages for wrongful death and his pain and suffering. It took him about 20 minutes to die after he was shot.
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