Louisiana’s insurance firm reviewing police officers’ actions
Louisiana’s insurance carrier is getting ready to defend any lawsuit stemming from the Oct. 31 fire that killed a young boy and led to police officers shocking his stepfather with a Taser gun at the scene.
The city is also waiting to see if Meadowbrook Insurance, of Overland Park, Kan. will recommend an external investigation into the matter, according to City Administrator Bob Jenne.
An internal investigation “would look like we were trying to cover something up,” Jenne said.
Officer William Harrison and Sgt. Jeffrey Salois both used an electric Taser gun on Ryan Miller outside of the 405 S. Main St. blaze that killed Riley Jeffrey Rieser, 3, Jenne said.
Although many in the community have referred to the victim as Riley Jeffrey Rieser Miller, his legal last name was Rieser, Jenne said.
A Miller family member said Wednesday, Nov. 6 that Ryan Miller and wife Catherine Miller were in the process of adopting the boy when the fire occurred.
The officers shocked Miller while he was trying to break away from them to save his stepson did so to protect him, Jenne said.
“They were worried he would succumb to the smoke and heat and we’d have another fatality,” Jenne said. Miller “kept trying to make entry without protective gear.”
The city reported right after the blaze that a firefighter in full gear tried to enter the home but could not because of the extreme heat.
Harrison shocked Miller outside the home and then handed his Taser to Salois while he was struggling with Miller, Jenne said.
Salois administered the second shock during “a confrontation at the police car,” Jenne said.
“They were trying to get him into the patrol car and he had wedged himself in the doorway,” Jenne said.
The officers had been trained with the Taser, Jenne said.
The city has police policy for using deadly and non-deadly force. The use of non-deadly force is acceptable when an officer is trying “to protect themselves or another physical harm, or to restrain or subdue a resistant individual,” according to the department’s standard operating procedures.
Within those procedures “no such policy exists on restraining people at disaster scenes,” according to Jenne and City Clerk Sharon Kakouris.
A Louisiana police offense/incident report cited Miller with failure to comply with a police officer and disorderly conduct.
However, no formal charges had been filed against him in the city’s municipal court as of Tuesday, Nov. 12, according to Louisiana Court Clerk Niki Wallace.
Miller could not be reached for comment for this story. He told the Press-Journal following the fire that he was shocked with the Taser gun multiple times, handcuffed and placed in a Louisiana Police Department holding cell while his son was on his way to the hospital.
An autopsy was performed to determine the exact cause of Rieser’s death. Those results won’t be known for six to 10 weeks, according to Pike County Coroner Jim Turner.
The cause of the blaze also remains under investigation by the Missouri State Fire Marshal’s office, according to Louisiana Fire Chief Mike Lesley.
Fire officials said last week the fire was not suspicious and likely originated from an electrical outlet in a rear room where the parents were sleeping when the fire broke out.
The Millers awoke, and made their way out a back door of the house. Mr. Miller was attempting to kick in the front door of the house to save his stepson when firefighters and police arrived and officers restrained him, city officials reported last week.
At the Nov. 4 Louisiana City Council meeting, councilman Bart Niedner said the city’s insurance attorney had advised city public officials “not to speak to anyone,” concerning the fire, other than Jenne and the insurance firm’s legal counsel.