New Billboard, Ceremony Remembering Zachary Bear Heels 2017 Death in Omaha

Oct. 16, 2020, 2:53 p.m. ·

New billboard for Zachary Bear Heels at 53rd and Center in Omaha. (Photo courtesty of Kevin Abourezk)

Native leaders and advocates will unveil a billboard in Omaha Saturday calling for justice for a man who died during his arrest in June of 2017. Native American Zachary Bear Heels, 29, died of excited delirium after he was tasered 12 times by Omaha Police Officers who were trying to remove him from a convenience store.

“We’ve decided honor the family of Zachary Bear Heels, we have actually 11 members of Zachary Bear Heels family coming to Nebraska for this event,“ said Kevin Abourezk, who is leading the billboard effort. “We’ve decided to unveil the billboard with a blessing ceremony. We’re going to smudge the billboard, we’re going to say some words.”

The event will include a march and prayer ceremony that starts at 11 a.m. at 16th and Jackson in Omaha. The billboard is at 53rd and Center. Four Omaha police officers were fired after the incident and two were charged. One officer was acquitted and charges were dropped against the other. Three of those officers later got their jobs back.

“I don’t want people to forget him, but I also don’t want them to forget the fact that four police officers felt the need to exact such wrath upon him simply for not being willing to get in the back a police cruiser when he had done nothing wrong,” Abourezk said.

Bear Heels had dealt with mental illness, but had not committed a crime the night he died and was unarmed. Several officers were also filmed punching Bear Heels repeatedly while he was restrained.