The Washington Post

The ‘Cops’ crew member killed in a police shootout was shot by an officer’s gun

A veteran “Cops” sound supervisor who was critically injured while filming an armed robbery in Nebraska on Tuesday has died, the reality show’s production company said Wednesday. Thirty-eight-year-old Bryce Dion was killed by a police officer’s errant bullet during a shootout with a robbery suspect in Omaha.

“We are deeply saddened and shocked by this tragedy and our main concern is helping his family in any way we can,” Pam Golum said in an e-mailed statement. “Bryce Dion was a long term member of the Cops team and a very talented and dedicated person. We mourn his passing. An investigation is ongoing and we are cooperating with local authorities.”

Bryce Dion, courtesy of Langley Productions. Bryce Dion, courtesy of Langley Productions.

At a Wednesday afternoon news conference, Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer confirmed Dion’s death, saying it was “an emotionally tough time for the ‘Cops’ production crew family and the Omaha Police Department.”

Dion, a “Cops” photographer and two Omaha police officers responding to a call for backup arrived at the scene of an armed robbery in progress about 9:20 on Tuesday night, Schmaderer said.

“Officers immediately confronted the robbery suspect … who was armed with a handgun,” the police chief said. That handgun turned out to be an Airsoft pistol, which looks like a firearm but fires plastic bullets.

Believing the Airsoft gun to be loaded with live rounds, three officers returned fire on the masked suspect after he shot at them. In what the chief described as “a chaotic scene,” Dion “got stuck in the vestibule” of the restaurant, as the photographer was able to take cover in the eating area of the facility.

Although “Cops” crew members wear protective vests while filming, Schmaderer said Dion — a seven-year veteran of the production crew — was hit by a single bullet in the left arm during the shootout. The bullet then “slipped in” between an open spot in the vest. An autopsy is still pending.

The bullet that killed Dion came from an officer’s gun, Schmaderer said. “This was a friendly fire situation. It was an officer’s round that struck Mr. Dion.” Schmaderer couldn’t confirm the exact number of bullets fired in the shootout, but denied that the volume of shots fired was “excessive.”

Prompted by a reporter’s question, Schmaderer called the idea that the officers were “showing off” for the cameras “ridiculous.”

“Nobody wanted Bryce to get hurt. Nobody wanted anybody to get hurt,” Schmaderer said. He also offered his condolences to the family of the deceased suspect, identified Wednesday as Cortez Washington.

handout/Omaha Police Department

The incident is being investigated, Schmaderer said. The three officers who fired at Washington — Detective Darren Cunningham and officers Brooks Riley and Jason Wilhelm — are on paid leave pending the result of the investigation. The state will also convene a grand jury to examine the evidence.

Portions of the shootout were filmed by the production crew. That footage is now evidence in the investigation. “Based on our view into the footage,” Schmaderer added, “the officers had no choice” but to return fire.

Handout/Omaha Police Department

“Cops,” which has been on the air since 1989, embeds production crews with police departments across the country. The proto-reality show has been filming in Omaha for about a month. In June, Schmaderer said he was “proud of the department and want the professionalism of our officers on display for the city and world to see,” according to the Associated Press.

John and Morgan Langley, the father-son executive producers of “Cops,” said that their crew had another week of filming scheduled in Omaha, but that they weren’t sure whether production would continue. Some crew members, they said, are currently in counseling.

This post has been updated.

Abby Ohlheiser is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments

Sign up for email updates from the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

You have signed up for the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

Thank you for signing up
You'll receive e-mail when new stories are published in this series.
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
Making family dinnertime happen
Deaf banjo player teaches thousands
New limbs for Pakistani soldiers
Play Videos
A veteran finds healing on a dog sled
Learn to make this twice-baked cookie
How to prevent 'e-barrassment'
Play Videos
Syrian refugee: 'I’m committed to the power of music'
The art of tortilla-making
Michael Bolton's cinematic serenade to Detroit
Play Videos
Circus nuns: These sisters are no act
5 ways to raise girls to be leaders
Cool off with sno-balls, a New Orleans treat
Next Story
Mark Berman · August 27, 2014

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.