A CREW member on an American police reality television show was shot and later died after officers opened fire on a robbery suspect.
Bryce Dion, 38, a sound operator on the show Cops, was shot along with the robbery suspect, who was armed with a pellet gun police mistakenly believed was a real weapon.
Mr Dion, a single man from Lawrence, Massachusetts, was taken to the University of Nebraska Medical Centre but died a short time later.
Robbery suspect Cortez Washington, 32, discharged the pellet gun before officers returned fire at a Wendy’s fast-food restaurant in Omaha, Nebraska, late on Tuesday, said police chief Todd Schmaderer.
Washington also died later in hospital.
Mr Schmaderer said witnesses and officers thought the Airsoft pistol looked and sounded real, but later discovered it fired only plastic pellets. Washington was wounded by the officers’ gunfire, but fled outside before collapsing.
Officers continued firing as he left the premises and that was when Mr Dion was hit, said Mr Schmaderer.
Mr Dion was wearing a bullet-proof 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 officers are taking this very hard,” he added. “Bryce was their friend.”
Video taken by the cameraman with Mr Dion shows the chaotic scene. Police released stills showing a hooded and masked raider pointing a gun at officers. Mr Schmaderer said police would not release the full video, but it would be part of a grand jury investigation.
Mr Schmaderer said Washington had a 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 a hold-up at the Wendy’s restaurant. The Cops crew were with two officers who responded to that request.
When police entered the restaurant and confronted the suspect, Mr Dion was separated from the cameraman, Mr Schmaderer said.
Langley Productions said this was the first time one of its crew had been fatally shot while filming. The show started on Fox in 1989 and is now shown on the Spike network.
In 2010, a TV crew for the A&E reality show The First 48, recorded a Detroit police raid in which a seven-year-old girl was accidentally killed by an officer. That incident highlighted concerns about whether TV cameras influence police behaviour, perhaps encouraging showboating.
But Mr Schmaderer yesterday rejected suggestions his officers overreacted for the cameras as “absolutely ridiculous”. He said the video showed the officers reacted properly.
Mr Schmaderer said he accepted the invitation from Cops to film in Omaha but expressed regret at the outcome. “Personally, I will live with this forever,” he said. “If I’d have known that this would happen, of course, I wouldn’t have done it.”
Langley Productions president John Langley and son, executive producer Morgan, said police behaved professionally. John Langley said the crew had only a week left of filming when the shooting happened.
“Bryce has been with us for seven years,” said Morgan Langley. “This is very hard for us.”