OMAHA, Neb. — Omaha police officers will undergo Native American cultural sensitivity and mental health training after a mentally ill Native American man died in custody.

Zachary Bearheels, 29, died in June after he was shocked with a Taser multiple times, punched in the head and dragged by his ponytail, the Omaha World-Herald reported . Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer announced plans for training in July after he met with Mayor Jean Stothert, City Council President Ben Gray and members of the Native American community.

Omaha police fired the four officers who were at the scene of Bearheels’ death. A grand jury filed a felony second-degree assault charge and weapon use charge against Scotty Payne and a misdemeanor assault charge against Ryan McClarty in December.

Bearheels was traveling on a bus from South Dakota to Oklahoma when he was kicked off the vehicle in Omaha. He was a member of the Rosebud Sioux of South Dakota and also had ties to Apache and Kiowa Tribes of Oklahoma. He had bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, according to relatives.

All officers will attend 90 minutes of Native American cultural training and 90 minutes of mental health training in June, said Lt. Catherine Milone, the training commander.

“When an issue arises, we want to make sure we’re as educated as possible on their traditions, interactions, what maybe they’ve experienced in the past so we bridge and forge relationships that are more positive between that cultural group and the police department,” Milone said. “The more we can educate ourselves … the better off the community will be.”

More than 50 members of the basic and veteran police recruit classes received Native American sensitivity training in December.

Stothert also plans to announce the members of the new Native American advisory board this month.

Information from: Omaha World-Herald,

Author photo
The AP is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering. AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, as a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members, it can maintain its single-minded focus on newsgathering and its commitment to the highest standards of objective, accurate journalism.