The "Cops" crew was with police officers responding to an armed robbery call at a Wendy's restaurant around 9:20 p.m. when the shooting took place.
OMAHA, NE (USA Today) - The bullet that killed an employee of the long-running TV show "Cops" while filming a response to an armed robbery call was fired by a police officer, Omaha police said Wednesday.
It turned out the suspect was only armed with an Airsoft rifle, which fires plastic pellets, Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said during a press conference.
The crewmember was identified as Bryce Dion, 38, who was working as the sound technician when he was killed by "friendly fire," Schmaderer said.
The "Cops" crew was with police officers responding to an armed robbery call at a Wendy's restaurant around 9:20 p.m. when the shooting took place. Dion was struck once and the suspect, 32-year-old Cortez Washington, was hit multiple times by police gunfire.
Despite his injuries, Washington managed to escape out the back door before he collapsed in the Wendy's parking lot. It was there police discovered the handgun they thought he had fired at them was a non-lethal Airsoft gun.
Schmaderer identified the officers who discharged their weapons as 10-year veteran officer Darren Cunningham, 37; 4-year veteran officer Brooks Riley, 35; and 4-year veteran officer Jason Willhelm, 39. The officers are on paid administrative leave pending an investigation, which is normal procedure in officer-involved shootings.
Washington and Dion were taken to the University of Nebraska Medical Center where they were pronounced dead.
"We are deeply saddened and shocked by this tragedy and our main concern is helping his family in any way we can," Langley Productions, which produces Cops, said in a statement. "Bryce Dion was a long term member of the Cops team and a very talented and dedicated person."
Dion had been with Langley Productions for seven years and had recently been promoted to sound supervisor, a company official said.
Cops has been filming in Omaha since June.
In June Schmaderer explained that he wanted Cops to film his department in action to put "the professionalism of our officers on display for the city and the world to see," according to the Omaha World-Herald.
Cops embeds camera crews with police units and uses no narration, other than the dialogue of the officers and those they come into contact with. The show is described on its website as one of the first "true and unscripted reality shows."
The show first aired on March 11, 1989, and has earned four Emmy nominations.