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Local man dies in police custody

(Source: KSWO) (Source: KSWO)

MOUNTAIN VIEW, OK (KSWO) - The death of a local man while in police custody in Nebraska is under investigation, and the police chief is recommending two officers be fired. 

29-year-old Zachary Bearheels of Mountain View died Monday after being tased and punched by several officers. It started when police were called to help with a man who refused to leave a gas station. 

The officers handcuffed Bearheels in a patrol car while they tried to determine what to do with him.  They contacted his mother, who said her son was mentally ill and asked them to take him to the bus station so he could come back to Oklahoma.  As they opened the squad car to buckle him in for the ride, he got out and tried to walk away, which is when the confrontation turned physical.

As they tried to restrain Bearheels, officers tased him several times and punched him in the head repeatedly.

Minutes later, they realized Bearheels was not breathing and had no pulse.  He was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said the officers didn't adhere to their training and policies when they activated the taser 12 times during the incident with Bearheels.

The chief also said that dragging him by his hair and punching his head while he was motionless during the final strikes were also violations of the department's policy.

Zachary's family is shocked and upset after hearing what happened to him and they’re now speaking about what happened.

"They failed, they failed the family and they failed Zach most of all," Zachary’s aunt Tracy Poafpybitty said.

The family said his mom wasn’t ready to watch the press conference that happened today but those who did see it, say they're left with more questions.

"If they were going to just let him go how come they didn't just let him go,” His brother Robert Davenport Jr. asked.

“They physically punched my brother in the face over and over again and tased him over 12 times while he was still handcuffed," Mitchell Chalppah, Zachary’s other brother said.

They said Zachary recently went to visit his father in South Dakota and was on his way back to Oklahoma when he was kicked off a bus and left in a town he'd never been in before.

"He was just trying to come home,” Chalppah said. “That was it…he was just trying to come home."

Poafpybitty has been with Zachary’s mom since they were notified about his death.

"I hope no other family has to go through what we have to go through,” Poafpybitty said. “I don't wish that on nobody because all he was trying to do was like his brother said was come home."

The family said Zachary suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. His aunt believes the officers weren't properly trained to recognize his mental illness, and assumed something else was wrong.

"I know that they were trying to say that he was under the influence of drugs but there is a difference between seeing somebody under the influence of drugs and mental illness if you're trained in those areas,” Poafpybitty said. “If you have the training and expertise and being a police officer you're supposed to have that training."

While the police chief has recommended for two officers to be fired, the family says two other officers who were involved should be punished as well.

"Look, my brother’s killers are out walking around like it's nothing,” Davenport said. “Like my auntie said, we want justice, we do. My brother didn't deserve any of that. He was not a combative person I know that much."

The family didn't want to say if they're considering any legal action against the department.

Right now, they're making arrangements for Zachary's funeral on Wednesday.

The family has a GoFundMe to help with the cost of the funeral.

Copyright 2017 KSWO. All rights reserved.

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