Friend of policeman defends tasing of stepfather at scene of fatal blaze
Dr. Joel Shults
A former instructor of Louisiana Police Sgt. Jeff Salois has passionately defended the officer’s actions during the Oct. 31 fire that killed Riley Jeffrey Rieser.
Dr. Joel Shults, of Colorado, told the Louisiana City Council Tuesday, Nov. 12 that Salois’ tasing of Rieser’s stepfather at the fire scene should be thoroughly investigated before it is judged.
“No one has stepped up to publicly call for the common decency of withholding judgment until the facts are in,” Shults said.
Shults said Salois was a fine man who has endured “wildly damaging and malicious criticisms” on a national scale and has been subjected to death threats.
Shults also said that Salois and Police Chief Rich Hughes should be allowed to speak about the incident. The city council has already acknowledged that only City Administrator Bob Jenne and the city insurance firm’s attorney can speak publicly for the city about the fire.
Shults also made allegations about stepfather Ryan Miller’s behavior at the fire scene, that were not attributed to any source. He also asked open-ended questions about Miller’s past in the statement.
Miller was trying to save his stepson from the blaze and was tased twice, once by Salois and once by Officer William Harrison, according to City Administrator Bob Jenne.
Shults’ comments were preceded by Louisiana City Attorney Robert Rapp,
Rapp defended Salois and Harrison, saying that the city should not allow anyone without full protective gear into a burning home.
If Salois and Harrison had allowed Miller into the home, “We could be having two funerals instead of one,” Rapp said.
“People want answers now about what happened,” Rapp said, adding that the public and fire victims deserve the answers.
However, Rapp said the city would not comment about the incident until “multiple investigations now underway are complete.”
The state fire marshal is investigating the blaze, as is the attorney for the city’s insurance firm, D. Keith Henson. Jenne said shortly after the fire that Henson was preparing the insurance firm to defend expected lawsuits from the tasing of Miller.
Henson last week declined to comment on the progress of his investigation, citing attorney-client privilege.
Jenne said Monday, Nov. 18 that he had not yet received word from Henson as to whether he will pursue an outside investigation of the incident.
When Louisiana police officers were involved in the fatal shooting of a Vandalia man three years ago, the matter was investigated by the Missouri State Highway Patrol, (MSHP).
Sgt. Kevin J. Hunter of the MSHP’s detective division said Nov. 18 that no request has been made to investigate the fatal blaze and tasing incidents.