A television cameraman filming the reality TV series Cops has been shot and killed during a shootout with an armed robber.
Authorities said the crew from the long-running reality TV series was filming a police unit Omaha, Nebraska, when gunfire was exchanged with an armed robber outside a Wendy's restaurant.
Police said two people were hit in the crossfire, the suspect and the Cops cameraman. The cameraman has been identified as Bryce Dion, a 38-year-old resident of the Los Angeles suburb of Santa Monica.
In an exchange on police radio aired on US television, a police office is heard to say: "We've got a Cops cameraman hit, [a] white male, he's not conscious, he's slightly breathing."
Another officer says: "We have one of the Cops guys, [he] has been hit by gunfire."
Initially, police confirmed the robbery suspect had been killed in the exchange of gunfire but made no comment on the condition of Dion.
Media reports in the US later confirmed Dion had died from his injuries.
In a tragic footnote to the incident, police said the armed robber was only carrying an "air gun", a small low-impact sidearm which resembles a real gun.
Langley Productions, which produces Cops, said in a statement the company was "deeply saddened and shocked" by Dion's death.
"Our main concern is helping his family in any way we can," the company said.
"Bryce Dion was a long term member of the Cops team and a very talented and dedicated person.
"We mourn his passing. An investigation is ongoing and we are cooperating with local authorities."
The reality series, which was a mainstay of the Fox network for more than two decades, is now aired on the cable channel Spike. It launched in 1989.
The series places crews with police units in various jurisdictions across the US. This particular crew had been filming police work in Omaha, Nebraska, since early July.
Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said 38-year-old Bryce Dion was shot once during a shootout between three officers and one suspect in a Wendy's.
"It is as if we lost one of our own," Chief Schmaderer said. "He was an incredible man."
Dion, who is also an audio technician, had been working with Omaha police on the show since June, police said.
Police said the suspect, 32-year-old Cortez Washington, shot at officers with an airsoft pistol and was subsequently shot and killed.
The shooting happened about 9.20pm when multiple rounds were fire by the three officers during the incident, Chief Schmaderer said.
Although the two-man crew did have on bulletproof vests, the bullet was able to hit an unprotected area on Dion, Chief Schmaderer said.
Both Washington and Dion were pronounced dead when they arrived at the hospital.
Dion had been with the show for seven years, said Morgan Langley, who is the head of Langley Productions with his father, John.
Dion was a single man from the Boston area who was recently promoted within the company, Morgan Langley said.
"We want to make sure Bryce is respected, and we want people to know he was a great guy and a hard worker," Morgan Langley said.
"We train our guys and do provide them bulletproof vests," he said.
John Langley said Cops is a true reality show, meaning "it happens as it happens."
"That is our highlight and our low light," he said.
The investigation into the shooting is ongoing.
Among the longest-running series in TV history, Cops was part of the first batch of shows to launch the reality programming craze.
The series premiered in March 1989 at a time when the then-young Fox network was on the prowl for edgy programs that could help establish its identity.
Filmmaker Michael Moore, among others, has criticised the show for selectively focusing on crimes involving poor and working-class suspects. The show's opening theme, the reggae tune Bad Boys, has become instantly recognisable.
Fox cancelled Cops in 2013 and it was subsequently picked up by the Spike cable network.
SMH - with MCT