OMAHA (KPTM) – Starling new pictures were released by the Omaha Police Department Wednesday. Police said 31-year-old Tyree Bell used his three-year-old son as a "human shield".
OPD Chief Todd Schmaderer said someone called 911 around 4 a.m. Tuesday and told the dispatchers to get to 42nd and Pratt streets quickly because Bell was armed. When they arrived they found Bell standing outside on the steps holding a pistol grip shotgun.
Schmaderer said Bell was "verbally threatening officers and making suicidal statements".
Inside the house were Bell's 44-year-old girlfriend LeVette Spracher and their twins—a boy and a girl.
Spracher ran out of the house, but the kids stayed inside. Negotiators were able to convince Bell to let his daughter go, but not his son.
Around 6 a.m. Schmaderer said Bell became "agitated" and kept going in and out of the house, while holding his son, the shotgun and a riffle. Investigators later discovered the shotgun was not loaded and the riffle was a BB gun.
Bell pointed the gun towards officers. In fear of shooting the boy, officers could not defend themselves. Minutes later, Bell took his son inside. When he returned, Schmaderer said, Bell pointed his weapons towards officers who showed "considerable restraint", but there were no indications Bell was going to surrender.
Four officers shot Bell multiple times. He fell into the doorway and his son ran out the house.
Bell was pronounced dead at the hospital.
This was a frightening entry to the New Year for anyone, especially for a child. When people saw the photos, many asked if the boy would remember.
"They remember how it smelled, how it looked, how everybody felt—the shouting, the noises, the sensory experiences," Megan Frantz with Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska, Inc. said. "When they reoccur an experience anything like that they can be completely, traumatically triggered again."
Frantz, who is an early childhood therapist, said it is worse for kids to witness violence than to experience it.
"Their caregiver is tied to their own sense of security. So [when] they see their caregivers being threatened, it also threatens their sense of security."
Kids ages 0-5, Frantz said, have brains that are still developing to their capacity. When they see death occur, for example, they can have temper tantrums, aggressive behavior and night terrors more often.
They will also begin to cry easily, be unable to leave their caregivers or have disturbance in sleep and/or appetite.
"Early intervention is really key. We can actually rewire and recreate positive pathways in the place of negative ones."
As for the aggressors, Captain Chuck Clark of Bellevue Police Department said they also need treatment.
"They're not criminals, they're not bad people, they're just having that meltdown that is very, very severe to the point where they are threatening to hurt others or they're going to hurt themselves—they're going to kill themselves," Clark said.
There are two types of hostage incidents Clark said.
"The whole idea of what we see in the movies—the exciting negotiators surrounding the bank and the bad guys in the bank—that doesn't happen that often."
He said what does happen often are Pseudo-Hostage incidents. Like in Bell's incident, the boy was a victim—not a hostage. He was held for expressive reasons and was at risk of being killed. In non-hostage incidents, Clark said, the aggressor usually needs nothing from police and there is no clear goal.
87 percent of negotiations occur with people whoa re in an emotional crisis according to Clark and it is mostly with men.
"Women are more willing to talk them out with a friend, a relative or a companion," Clark continued. "Where as men close it up, they keep it inside until they burst."
In response to why four officers felt the need to shot one person multiple times, Clark said officers are trained to protect.
"If there are multiple officers on the scene they're each forming their own opinion ‘at what point do I need to stop that threat'? They're going to all act. Not ‘I'll let him do it'."
Bell and Spracher have a history of domestic violence. Chief Schmaderer also said Bell has a lengthy record of felony with gun possession and a history of mental health issues. Investigators believe Bell was under the influence of alcohol and a form of narcotic drugs the morning of the incident.
The officers who shot at Bell were Douglas Arrick, 31; Carl Hanson, 36; Chithauta Hester, 29; and Alan Peatrowsky, 35. They are on paid leave while Bell's death is under investigation. This is standard OPD policy whenever an officer shoots someone while on duty.
Arrick and Hester are four-year veterans. Hanson has served on the force for 12 years and Peatrowsky seven.
Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska, Inc. has different mental health services for children at different costs and time lengths. Frantz stressed to parents that they should not worry about funding being too expensive because there are options available for assistance. For more information call (402) 342-7038 or email info@LFSneb.org.
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