A sound operator on reality TV show Cops has been shot dead by police officers who opened fire during a robbery at a fast food restaurant.
Bryce Dion, 38, died along with the robbery suspect, who was armed with a pellet gun police thought was a real weapon, authorities in Omaha, Nebraska, said Wednesday.
The suspect, 32-year-old Cortez Washington, fired from the pellet gun before officers returned fire, police chief Todd Schmaderer said. He said witnesses and officers thought the Airsoft handgun looked and sounded real, but later discovered it fired only plastic pellets.
Cops has depicted law enforcement officers in action since it premiered in 1989. The show has been filmed in at least 140 US cities and three foreign countries, its website says.
Washington was wounded by the officers’ gunfire, but fled outside the Wendy’s restaurant before collapsing.
Officers continued firing as he left the restaurant and that was when Mr Dion was hit, said Mr Schamaderer.
Mr Dion was wearing a bulletproof vest, but a single bullet that hit his arm “slipped into a gap in the vest” and entered his chest, the police chief said.
“My concern with my officers is that they are taking this very hard,” Mr Schmaderer said. “Bryce was their friend.”
Video captured by the cameraman who was with Mr Dion shows the chaotic situation in the restaurant. Police released stills from the video showing a hooded and masked person pointing what looks like a gun at police. Mr Schmaderer said police would not release the full video, but it would be part of the grand jury investigation into the shooting.
Mr Schmaderer said Washington had a lengthy criminal record, including an accessory to robbery conviction from Missouri for which he was on parole.
The incident began when one of the officers, on his way to another reported robbery, called to request back-up for the hold-up at the Wendy’s restaurant.