A tragic scene that unfolded in the small town of Louisiana, Missouri last Thursday, which resulted in the death of 3-year-old Riley Jeffrey Miller, has residents and now people across the country asking some very difficult questions.
Ryan and Cathy Miller and their 3-year-old son were sleeping when a fire started in their home. The parents had fallen asleep watching television while young Riley slept in his bedroom.
The smoke woke Ryan and Cathy from their sleep and they were able to exit out of a rear door from the room they were in after being unable to get to their son because of the fire. Once outside, 911 was called and the Millers rushed to the front of the home.
When the police and firefighters arrived the latter determined that the blaze which had already fully engulfed the back of the home was too hot to attempt to enter. Riley’s stepfather, Ryan Miller, had decided to try to rescue his son. While only in his pajamas with no shoes on, he held his shirt over his head and tried kicking in a door.
City Administrator Bob Jenne told KSDK that the authorities felt the fire was too dangerous for what Mr. Miller was attempting so they had no choice but to restrain and then taser him to keep him from entering the inferno. “The fire chief felt that if Mr. Miller would have tried to enter that he too might have wound up being a fatality. This is something we want to look in to and see if it was the right thing to do at that time,” Jenne said.
KHQA spoke with Ryan’s sister-in-law, Emily Miller, who stated:
“It’s just heartless. 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?”
The family also said that officers tasered Mr. Miller 3 times, handcuffed him and placed him in the back of a patrol car.
Ryan Miller’s mother and Riley’s grandmother, Lori Miller, said, “He tried to get back in the house to get the baby. They took my son to jail because he tried to save his son.”
There has been no official determination of the cause of the fire yet but the fire marshal stated that the fire didn’t appear to be suspicious.
Quick Update: Ryan Miller has spoken out. “I was hysterical, yes, because I wanted to save my son. He was my best friend. He was everybody’s best friend. If you would have met him, you would have loved him. He was the joy of my life,” he said.
CNN reported on the situation and asked their legal analyst Joey Jackson about whether or not police were in the right. Jackson said:
“From a strictly legal point of view I believe the police did have the grounds to stop him and here’s why. Police are in the business of protecting and serving of course but you don’t want to create a scenario where you have another fatality. As a result of that, what the police are going to say is that they erred on the side of caution and while there’s a moral imperative to protect another life, you don’t want another one lost. That’s where the law will seek to protect them.”
The scenario was then turned around and Jackson was asked if the police would have allowed Mr. Miller to enter and he would have died, could they have been held legally accountable. “If you let someone, the stepfather in this instance, go in and perform a rescue and it went bad, we could be talking about a lawsuit against the police department for doing that.”
For those interested in helping the family, monetary donations may be sent to the Mercantile Bank in Louisiana, c/o Ryan Miller or the Riley Miller fund.