Omaha police officers were running and gunning to make compelling TV when they sprayed bullets at an armed robbery suspect, killing him and a 'Cops' crewman ... so claims the dead suspect's family.
TMZ spoke with one of Cortez Washington's relatives ... who believes the officers used excessive force Tuesday night -- and were "hyped up" to put on a good show when they responded to the Wendy's.
As we reported ... 'Cops' sound supervisor Bryce Dion died after getting hit by friendly fire from Omaha PD during the shootout with Washington -- who was holding a Wendy's employee at gun point.
Washington's firearm turned out to be a pellet gun -- modeled after a real semi-automatic pistol -- and his family thinks officers should have recognized it wasn't a lethal weapon before they unloaded more than 20 rounds. One family member told us, "With everything going on in Ferguson, you think they would use other options."
The relative also said they don't buy Omaha PD's claim Cortez started the shootout by firing two rounds.
Omaha cops say they were not grandstanding for cameras ... maintaining they responded to the robbery with proper protocol ... and engaged Cortez because he pointed and fired his weapon at them.
'Cops' Crew Member
Killed By 'Friendly Fire' ...
Shot by Omaha Cop
8/27/2014 1:15 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Omaha police say the "Cops" crew member who was shot and killed during a police shootout with an armed robbery suspect was hit by gunfire from police ... NOT from the suspect's weapon.
Omaha PD just held a news conference to discuss the details surrounding the death of Bryce Dion -- a sound supervisor who was part of a 2-person "Cops" camera crew. They called it a tragic case of "friendly fire."
According to police ... Dion and his partner were riding with a patrol unit that responded to the armed robbery call at a Wendy's. Police say Dion was in the entryway of the restaurant when the suspect fired shots ... and police returned fire with multiple rounds.
Investigators say Dion was caught in the crossfire ... hit by a bullet or bullets from a police weapon. They say Dion was wearing an armored vest, but the bullet went through the arm hole of the vest.
Omaha PD was also adamant -- the officers were NOT showing off for the camera when they opened fire on the suspect -- who also died from gunshot wounds.
Police say the suspect was firing an Airsoft pellet gun ... something the responding officers didn't know at the time.
'Cops' creator John Langley was at the news conference and said other crew members -- who've been taping in Omaha for 2 months -- are getting counseling. Police released still images from the 'Cops' camera footage.
TV Cameraman Shot and Killed
While Taping Shootout
8/27/2014 7:29 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
A cameraman for the TV show "Cops" was shot while covering a shootout between Omaha police and an armed robbery suspect ... and sources close to the production tell TMZ the photog has died from his injuries.
Officers -- with the "Cops" crew in tow -- responded to a call at a fast food restaurant Tuesday night and found an armed robbery in progress. Police say shots were fired and 2 people were hit -- the cameraman and the suspect.
In police radio transmissions, you can hear cops call for backup during the shootout. One of the officers says, "We've got a 'Cops' cameraman hit ... white male ... he's not conscious ... he's slightly breathing."
Police say the robbery suspect was pronounced dead Tuesday night at the hospital.
Turned Down HUGE Vegas Offer
8/27/2014 1:00 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Robin Williams turned down a huge Las Vegas offer 2 years before he died ... and sources connected with Robin tell us it's further proof he did NOT have money troubles.
TMZ has obtained an AEG Live document to Robin ... offering him $600,000 to headline 2 shows at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace.
We're told Robin's people turned the offer down ... he was shooting "The Crazy Ones" at the time. Robin's people -- who have maintained all along money was not a factor in his suicide -- tell TMZ if he was really cash-strapped he would have done some moonlighting in Vegas to rake in some dough.
Under the proposal ... ticket prices ranged from $75 - $150.
Richard Attenborough Dead
'Jurassic Park' Star Dies At 90
8/24/2014 2:28 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Lord Richard Attenborough -- the English actor who made dinosaurs come to life in "Jurassic Park" -- has died after years of poor health.
Attenborough was one of England's leading actors ... but was also a director and producer. He's probably best known for "Jurassic Park" ... but also starred as Santa Claus in the remake of "Miracle On 34th Street"
His 70-year career also included "The Great Escape" with Steve McQueen ... and he directed "Gandhi" -- which won 8 Oscars.
Attenborough's son told the BBC his father died Sunday at lunchtime -- he'd been living in a nursing home with his wife for the past few years.
Attenborough was 90.
'Friday' Star John Witherspoon
Robin Williams Was A Coke Fiend
8/23/2014 12:50 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
John Witherspoon has thrown cold water on the homages to Robin Williams ... saying he was a hardcore junkie.
Witherspoon -- who played the father in "Friday" -- worked with Robin back in 1977 on the set of "The Richard Pryor Show" ... and tells us not only was Robin an addict, but that he even stole his coke right out from under him.
John actually cracked a cocaine joke describing Robin's prior penchant for coke.
Robin Williams' Son
Smiling and Mingling With Friends
8/21/2014 7:00 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Robin Williams' son Cody put on a brave face ... mingling with friends Tuesday in San Francisco to celebrate his dad's life.
Cody was dressed casually as he arrived at an invitation-only event at Marsha Garces' home ... she's Cody's mom and Robin's second wife. The outside of the house was strewn with candles and bouquets from well-wishers.
The 22-year-old Cody is not seen in the pic with his sister, Zelda, or half-brother, Zac.
No plans have been announced for a public memorial for Robin ... whose cremated remains were scattered in the San Francisco Bay.
Ashes Scattered At Sea
8/20/2014 6:08 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Robin Williams' body was cremated the day after he died ... and his ashes were scattered in San Francisco Bay ... this according to the official death certificate.
The document -- issued in Marin County where he died -- does not list an immediate cause of death ... instead it merely says, "pending investigation."
Williams committed suicide August 11th ... after hanging himself with a belt at his home in Tiburon, CA. As we reported, he had been severely depressed.
The coroner is still waiting for the results of toxicology tests ... to see if Williams had any chemicals in his body when he died. Those results will be available in the next few weeks.
Legendary 'SNL' Announcer Dies at 96
8/18/2014 9:43 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Don Pardo -- the man who famously announced "It's Saturday Night Live!" starting from the very first episode of "SNL" in 1975 -- passed away Monday night at the age of 96 ... NBC officials confirm.
Pardo reportedly died in his sleep in Tucson, AZ.
The man with the booming voice was hand-picked for the "SNL" job by creator Lorne Michaels -- and was featured on 38 of the 39 seasons (he missed season 7). He also missed 2 eps in 2013 after suffering a broken hip.
But like the champ he was ... Pardo got back to work after healing up and continued to serve as "SNL" announcer when the show resumed in September 2013. He worked all the way up until the "SNL" season finale back in May.
Pardo had been working with NBC since 1944 ... and provided voice work on everything from baseball games to newscasts and even gameshows -- spending 7 years on "The Price is Right" starting in 1956.
After that gig, Pardo spent 11 seasons on "Jeopardy" ... back when Art Fleming hosted the show.
Long story short ... the guy was a pioneer in almost every facet of television.
Former "SNL" writer John Mulaney tweeted moments ago ... saying, "Goodbye Don Pardo. You worked from World War II until this May. You were cool as hell. I'm very lucky I got to talk to you those few times."
Dane Cook also posted a message about Pardo -- saying, "I always wanted to host SNL and it was a lifelong mission. When I got it and got to NYC I had 1 must. Get a photo with the great Don Pardo. His voice set the tone of the show and hearing him usher in each host with his booming hijinx-y role call was in my dreams but saying my name finally. My dream came true. Thank you sir for spending time chatting and introducing me to America on that special Saturday night."
Suicide Was 'Spontaneous'
8/18/2014 12:55 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Robin Williams did not plan his suicide ... in fact, hours before he hanged himself he was making plans for upcoming projects.
A confidante of Robin's who spoke with him the day before his body was discovered tells TMZ ... they had a fairly lengthy discussion about several deals in the works and Robin was "completely engaged in the conversation."
The source says Robin was asking lots of questions about the deals ... inconsistent with someone who planned on killing himself.
The confidante says there was nothing out of the ordinary during the conversation ... saying "He [Robin] was unhappy which he often was, but it was nothing unusual." As for why Robin was unhappy, the source says Robin, like lots of other comedians, "lived in a dark place."
We're also told no one in Robin's life -- including his wife or personal assistant -- had any idea suicide was looming.
We're told the family believes whatever set Robin off on his fatal path occurred shortly before he cut, then hanged himself.
Won't Free Widow of Criminal Charges
8/18/2014 12:45 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Casey Kasem's widow is NOT off the hook just because she's thwarting the efforts of cops to get a full autopsy ... to determine if she committed elder abuse ... because we've learned cops are confident they have the goods to nail her.
We've confirmed Jean Kasem is moving Casey's body from Montreal to Oslo, Norway, where Casey's body will be buried.
TMZ broke the story ... the Santa Monica Police Dept. is investigating Jean ... because they say they have evidence she compromised his health by taking him on a wild, multi-state ride to evade the rest of her family ... causing him to get an infection that contributed to his death.
Law enforcement sources now tell TMZ ... although they'd like to have a full autopsy, detectives believe they have enough evidence to present the case to prosecutors. They've interviewed doctors and others who examined Casey during the car ride ... and cops say it's incriminating stuff.
We're told the case will be submitted to the L.A. County D.A. ... soon.
'Crazy Ones' Cancellation Devastating
'A Personal Failure'
8/16/2014 1:00 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Robin Williams was "devastated' when his TV show, "The Crazy Ones," was cancelled ... sending him into a deep depression that ultimately led to his suicide.
Sources who frequently interacted with Williams during the last month of his life tell TMZ ... Williams viewed the cancellation as a "personal failure." As Williams put it to one person just before the show debuted, "My face is all over town [on billboards] and it's all on my back."
We're told the cancellation after only 1 season sent Robin into a tailspin -- as one person said, "It hit him hard" -- and that's why he entered the Hazelden Addiction Treatment Center last month -- not for substance abuse, but for depression.
To make matters worse, we're told Robin was increasingly depressed that he was older and good roles for him were few and far between. He would talk about Robert De Niro, saying even he was having a hard time.
Our sources say Parkinson's disease wasn't nearly as significant a factor in his depression as "The Crazy Ones." We're told Robin knew he had the disease for 5 months.
One confidant tells us, "Robin was told by doctors the medications were so great he wouldn't even start to show symptoms for 6 or 7 years."
Typical 'Divorce Jokes'
8/15/2014 2:03 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Robin Williams did not have money trouble and money had no connection to his depression ... although he DID complain about being taken to the cleaners "the way most divorced husbands do" ... so says a person who frequently discussed finances with the actor.
The source -- who was in regular contact with Robin -- tells us he was not cash strapped and lived "the way he wanted to," adding, "He always flew first class, took great vacations and lived in the house he loved."
As for why he was selling his Napa ranch, we're told he just didn't like going there anymore. The source says the ranch was "a thing" for Robin and his second wife, Marsha, and he just didn't enjoy going there any longer.
The source says Robin did complain over the years about "getting taken to the cleaners by his ex-wives."
Multiple sources tell us ... money had nothing to do with the depression that ultimately led to Robin's suicide.