For the first time in the show's 900-plus-episode history, a cameraman working for the television reality institution "COPS" has lost his life on the job. Police say that the cameraman, who was killed in Omaha on Wednesday, was an accidental victim of friendly fire.
Three Nebraska police officers responding to a robbery call on Tuesday shot and killed both the suspect and a cameraman taping footage for the reality crime show, "COPS." The cameraman, 38 year-old Bryce Dion, was killed after officer's opened fire on the robbery suspect, Cortez Washington, after they believed he shot at them. In a sad turn of events, it turns out that Washington, who was in the process of attempting to rob a Wendy's, was only in possession of a pellet gun and was incapable of inflicting any real damage on police.
Chief Todd Schmaderer expressed regret for the shooting at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon. He explained that no one wanted to see Dion killed, but that police work was "very dangerous and very chaotic. When you’re reporting police work and riding along with us, unfortunately you subject yourself to that same level of violence that Omaha police officers do every day."
That is a very true statement, though it's a good bet that Bryce Dion wasn't expecting the threat to be coming from his side of the fence. What seems more damning, though, is the officers' claim that they believed Washington was firing on them. It seems a bit of a stretch to suggest that three highly trained police officers would mistake this noise for this noise, but Schmaderer insists that the Washington's gun looked and sounded real.
After going to the videotape, Chief Schmaderer determined that the three officers - Darren Cunningham, 37, Brooks Riley, 35, and Jason Wilhelm, 39 - acted professionally during the shooting. Their mistake has put them on paid leave while the incident is being investigate. Several witnesses inside the Wendy's at the time of the shooting have corroborated the officers' story, saying that Washington opened fire. "COPS" producers have also expressed their sympathy for the loss and have stated that the incident, while tragic, should not reflect poorly on Omaha police.
Though this tragedy marks the first death in "COPS" long history, this isn't the first time that an innocent has been caught in the crossfire. In 2010 a seven-year-old Detroit girl was shot during a police raid after an officer's gun accidentally discharged. The SWAT team was filming a segment for A&E's "The First 48".