BOWLING GREEN, Mo. (CN) – Missouri police Tasered a man repeatedly as he tried to enter a burning building to save his stepson, who died in the fire, the man and his wife claim in court.
Ryan and Catherine Miller sued the City of Louisiana and landlord Louis Houston on March 12 in Pike County Circuit Court.
The couple’s 3-year-old son, Riley Rieser, died in the Oct. 31, 2013 fire.
The Millers were able to escape from the home and Ryan Miller tried to go back in to save Riley.
“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,” the lawsuit states.
The Millers say that Ryan never presented a threat to the officers or other emergency personnel, that Salois and Harrison never announced they were police officers and never placed Ryan Miller under arrest.
“I was hysterical, yes, because I wanted to save my son,” Ryan Miller told the Louisiana Press Journal days after the fire.
Riley was pronounced dead at a hospital. Ryan Miller told the Press Journal that he was placed in the holding cell while Riley was taken to the hospital.
“He was my best friend,” Ryan Miller said told the Press Journal. “He was everybody’s best friend. If you would have met him, you would have loved him. He was the joy of my life.”
Ryan Miller says in the complaint that he was not charged with any crime. He claims that the repeated Tasing constitutes an unreasonable seizure and that officers “used more force than was reasonably necessary under the circumstances.”
The fire was caused by faulty wiring, according to the complaint.
The Millers claim that defendant Houston ignored repeated warnings from Louisiana housing officials and did not have an occupancy permit to lease the property because it had not been inspected for over two years.
Due to Houston’s negligence, the plaintiffs “were forced to expend monies for funeral and burial expenses” and “suffered burns, bruising, Tasing injuries” and other expenses,” the Millers say.
They claim that Louisiana “failed to enforce its ordinances regarding obtaining occupancy permits for residences, and had knowledge that the home was occupied despite no occupancy permit being issued.”
Attorney Keith Henson, representing Louisiana, told Courthouse News that the city had no comment.
The Millers seek damages from Louisiana for excessive force, negligent infliction of emotional distress, wrongful death and false imprisonment.
They seek punitive damages from Houston for wrongful death, intentional misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
They are represented by Cole Combs of St. Charles, Mo.
Louisiana, pop. 3,355, is a Mississippi River town 25 miles south of Hannibal. It is 88.5 percent Caucasian, has a median income of $27,559 (well below the Missouri average of $45,321) and has lost 13.2 percent of its population since 2000, according to city-data.com.
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