Three-year-old Riley Rieser died in a tragic house fire on the night of Oct. 31, 2013.
What made the tragedy even worse is that Ryan Miller, his stepdad, was rushing back into the home to save the little boy when police Tasered him, cutting off the rescue effort.
Now Miller has filed a suit against the town of Louisiana, Missouri, alleging excessive force after being zapped three different times — once when he was in handcuffs, reports the NY Daily News.
Miller, though not the biological father of Rieser, looked at the little boy as his own, describing him as “my best friend.” When his friend was caught in the house fire that was later determined to have been caused by faulty wiring, he didn’t think twice about risking his life.
“He was everybody’s best friend,” Miller said. “If you would have met him, you would have loved him. He was the joy of my life.”
On the night of the fire, the suit states, “Officers Jeffrey Salois and William Harrison prevented Ryan Miller from entering the home to save his stepson Riley Rieser by forcibly moving and by repeatedly Tasing Ryan Miller, including once in the police cruiser as Riley Rieser was being removed from the home.”
While everyone on the Miller side, including wife Catherine and mom Lori believe the Tasing to have been “police brutality,” the city’s administrator, Bob Jenne, deemed it a “judgment call” that officers made based on the belief that Miller would have put himself in danger.
“It’s just heartless,” said Emily Miller in comments to KHQA-TV, the aunt of Riley Rieser. “How could they be so heartless? And while they all just stood around and waited for the fire department, what kind of police officer wouldn’t try and save a three-year-old burning in a house?”
Since the fire was caused by a structural weakness due in part to the house not being kept up to code, the family is also suing landlord Louis Houston.
Despite placing Miller in handcuffs at the scene, it was only as an act of restraint. He was never charged with a crime.
The lawsuit is happening amid national unrest and heavy scrutiny over how police do their jobs as well as how they are policed themselves.
Recently, law enforcement officials were admonished by the University of Virginia for brutalizing a young black student for having a fake ID.
In the case of Riley Rieser, do you think the police officers involved are responsible for the boy’s death?