Man killed by police had criminal history dating back 15 years

In this image from an Omaha police cruiser camera, Tyree Bell is shown using his 3-year-old son as a shield from police officers while pointing a shotgun at them during a standoff Tuesday in Omaha. Bell was killed about five minutes later by police after he had put the child down inside the home and pointed weapons at the officers.


Video: Chief Todd Schmaderer's press conference.

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Tyree Bell had a criminal history that spanned 15 years.

It began in 1997 with a disturbing the peace arrest, gradually escalating to more serious offenses like theft and assault.

He was sentenced to a year in prison in 2010 for being a felon in possession of a deadly weapon. A year later, he was accused of assaulting his girlfriend.

Omaha police say Bell, 31, was suicidal and mentally ill when they confronted him Tuesday during a domestic disturbance. Bell used his 3-year-old son as a shield and later pointed two weapons at officers.

Four officers fired on Bell, who died at Creighton University Medical Center.

Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said Wednesday one of Bell's weapons turned out to be a pellet gun and that the other was unloaded. Schmaderer said police couldn't know that until after Bell had been shot.

Tyree Bell

“We still have to treat that weapon as being loaded,” Schmaderer said.

A camera on a police cruiser recorded the confrontation.

Police released an image from that video showing Bell holding his son under his left arm and holding a shotgun in the other. The image was recorded at 6:15 a.m., about five minutes before Bell was shot.

Schmaderer said officers “were in peril, as they could take no action for fear of harming the 3-year-old.”

About 6:20 a.m., Bell became more agitated, Schmaderer said.

He went back into the house, put his son down inside and reappeared on the front porch, this time pointing two guns at police, the chief said. That's when officers fired “numerous” times at Bell, he said.

Bell died of multiple gunshot wounds shortly after he arrived at the hospital. His son was unharmed, having toddled out of the house after the shooting and been scooped up by an officer.

Bell at no time tried to surrender, Schmaderer said. Alcohol and drugs may have compounded his suicidal behavior, he said.

The standoff at 3727 N. 42nd St. began at 4:11 a.m. with Bell holed up in the house with his girlfriend and twin 3-year-olds.

Hanson
Arrick
Peatrowsky
Hester

The children's mother escaped as officers arrived to investigate a disturbance involving an armed person. Bell later let his daughter run to the safety of officers who surrounded the house.

After nearly two hours of negotiating, an armed Bell emerged from the house with his son serving as a shield, Schmaderer said.

The officers who fired at Bell were Douglas Arrick, 31; Carl Hanson, 36; Chithauta Hester, 29; and Alan Peatrowsky, 35. They are on paid leave pending an investigation of Bell's death, which is standard policy when police shoot someone.

Arrick and Hester have been on the force for four years, Hanson for 12 years and Peatrowsky for seven. None of the officers had previously fired his weapon in the line of duty.

It wasn't clear Wednesday whether any of the four officers had completed a crisis intervention training course that teaches police the basics of mental illness and ways to defuse situations. Currently 196 Omaha officers — roughly one-quarter of the force — have taken the CIT course.

During the standoff, police officers lined the street in front of the house. They used their squad cars as shields to protect themselves, Schmaderer said.

Lt. Catherine Milone, a longtime police negotiator, supervised the talks with Bell throughout. Milone, an 18-year-veteran, is not a CIT officer, police said, but she watched over the negotiations.

It was the second time in five weeks that police shot a suicidal person with mental health problems.

Oliver Halverson was shot Nov. 28 near 124th and Burt Streets. He was holding a butcher knife and threatening officers and himself, police said.

Officer Jarvis Duncan repeatedly ordered Halverson to drop the knife, but he refused.

The officer fired his gun at least once, striking Halverson, who survived his injuries.

“We have had two (incidents) back to back,” Schmaderer said. “I don't know if that is enough to make it a trend.”

The chief said at least for now, he didn't see the Police Department making changes in how it handles situations with the mentally ill. Police have said confrontations with disturbed and armed people rank among officers' most dangerous, unpredictable encounters.

Contact the writer:

402-444-3100, maggie.obrien@owh.com

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