Missouri Police Repeatedly Shoot Man With Tasers And Arrest Him To Prevent Him From Rescuing His Three-Year-Old Son From Fire

article-2491452-19429BE500000578-935_634x708People in Louisiana, Missouri are angry today about the treatment of a step father, Ryan Miller, who was shot with a taser by police officers to prevent him from trying to save his three-year-old stepson, Riley Miller (on the right in the picture), from a raging fire. The fire department refused to enter the building as too dangerous but Ryan Miller wanted to try. He never got his chance. He was shot by two officers with three tasters and handcuffed. He was then taken to jail, though no charges were filed. Riley Miller burned to death.

We have seen similarly questionable use of force in other cases.

The fire appears to have started in a recreation room at the rear of the house while the parents were sleeping in front of the television. When the fire alarm went off, they ran outside and Ryan Miller ran to the front door and was kicking it open when police arrived and stunned him.

While he could sue for excessive force and false arrest, it would be difficult to prevail given his alleged failure to comply with the police order and the motivation of the police to protect him. This generally falls in the realm of a discretionary act subject to qualified immunity.

article-2491452-19429BFE00000578-170_306x423I understand the reason that the police took this step. However, I think that an adult family member, particularly a father, should be allowed to try. It is certainly true that two lives could have been lost but I think that there is something fundamental in the right to be able to try to a child if it does not endanger another. While the bravery of firefighters is well-known, many people would be haunted by not knowing whether they could have saved their child. Parents are willing to assume the greatest level of risk to protect their children. In most cases, I believe they have a right to try.

Of course, the fire fighters could argue that they would then have to try to save the father but they had already decided that the house was too dangerous to enter. Moreover, family members are often blinded to the risk or the impossibility of such a rescue. In the very least, while the police could try to restrain the father, shooting him with tasers seems excessive.

What do you think?

Source: Daily Mail

40 thoughts on “Missouri Police Repeatedly Shoot Man With Tasers And Arrest Him To Prevent Him From Rescuing His Three-Year-Old Son From Fire

  1. Just horrible. My prayers for the family. This is another post where I wish Darren Smith was here. As gut wrenching as it is, if the house was fully involved it’s the duty of firefighters and cops to keep someone else from dying on a suicide mission. Dad is a big man, I’m sure restraining him w/ adrenaline flowing would have been extremely difficult. No good choices.


  3. I am aghast…. I agree with the professor on all accounts…. Unless you’ve lost a child you’ll have no real understanding….

  4. Agree with Nick on this. In the photo we can see he is a very large and powerfully built man. Pumped on adrenaline and emotion, he would have been next to impossible to control and restrain. Based on what little is known at this time, it is almost certain the child was already dead. Forensic pathology literature says autopsies show almost all deaths in burning buildings are not from the fire, but from smoke inhalation.

    I have had to help restrain a would-be rescuer before. I had almost rather wrestle an angry bear. My first take on the situation is they did the right thing by using the Taser. Pepper spray would have contaminated everyone and everything, potentially rendering some of the firefighters and other first responders useless. Also, we don’t know if their pepper spray propellant is flammable or not. Continuing to grapple with him risked two things. He enters the house, is overcome by smoke and dies also. Second, he could have hurt somebody fighting with them as they tried to restrain him.

    I hate to see Monday morning quarterbacking on cases like this. Every time a Code Three call comes in, all first responders think in the back of their mind, “Please, God. Don’t let it be kids.”

  5. A father has had the natural right since the dawn of time to protect and save his child. No cop can get in the way of that altruism regardless of the reason. To deny him that is to deny his humanity.

  6. nick:

    “f the house was fully involved it’s the duty of firefighters and cops to keep someone else from dying on a suicide mission.”


    Why? Suicide is not illegal. Neither is self-sacrifice in furtherance of your own or society’s principles. I thought we had a country built on the latter.

  7. Mespo,

    If this were the law of the land…. We’d have no hero’s In New York on September 11….. I think it’s only a natural response….

  8. I guess the cops have a crystal ball to determine the outcome of life and death situations. They can decide to go into a car on the highway totally engulfed in flames to try to save the occupants (this has been seen often on TV news programs) yet they somehow know this father would not successful in his attempt to save his step-son. Some cops are real jerks.

  9. This is difficult. I don’t think any reasonable person would deny any family member, particularly a parent, the right to attempt a rescue. But the public servants (fire and police) have the appropriate duty to protect and seemed to have acted responsibly.

    Firefighters are the ‘experts’ in firefighting and fire safety, but arguably the father’s intimate knowledge of the household would give him at least equal knowledge thereby trumping the duty of care expected of the public servants.

  10. Here’s something no one seems to be asking:

    If the pi…uh, “cops” didn’t want the father risking his life, why didn’t those trigger happy thugs enter the building themselves and rescue the kid? Aren’t they supposedly willing to risk their lives to protect others, or is that just a myth told to placate the public and keep them paying taxes?

    If one of them had gotten off his fat-as-a-doughnut-from-eating-doughnuts behind and tried to rescue the kid, or if firefighters were there, the father would not have tried to enter the building. He went in because everyone around him was sitting around doing nothing. That’s when the blue filth violently assaulted him.

    The issue is much about the gutlessness of pi…uh, “law enforcement” as it is about their willingness to commit violence against innocent people. The swine will at most get a slap on the wrist, never mind be fired or face charges. If you think they exist “to protect and serve” the public, you’re sorely mistaken.


    I bet those idiots would taser and handcuff someone for trying to rescue a drownlng child (and let the kid drown) because the person attempting the rescue wasn’t a lifeguard or coast guard. Or maybe the idiots in Missouri decided this was a chance to see first hand how Christopher Dorner died. I wouldn’t put it past them.

  11. I don’t think anyone is saying his was not a natural response, because it is. And having buried both a son and a teenage grandson, I know about loss first hand. However, compounding one loss by the certain death of another is not doing the family any favors, despite the emotion of the moment. This man’s family is going to need him worse than ever after this.

    As for the 9-11 comparison, keep in mind neither the WTC or Pentagon were fully involved in flames, nor were they fully enveloped in toxic smoke. There was still breathable air inside.

    From a pure liability angle, and looking at this through the eyes of blind justice, I can see the family filing a wrongful death or negligence lawsuit had the officers not done everything humanly possible to keep him from entering a building fully engulfed in flames and dying for his efforts.

  12. P Smith,
    Your anti-police and anti-authority rants really push the limits of what even this free speech oriented blog is willing to tolerate. You have been cautioned before. Suggest you dial it back. Surely your vocabulary is such that you can express an opinion without resorting to gratuitous ad hominem attacks. You may not realize it, but by writing as you do in the above comment, you simply come across as both ignorant and hateful rather than contributing anything meaningful to the dialogue.

  13. As I said, no good choices. Protocol for police and firefighters is to stop people, even parents, from going into a building. It’s a good protocol. It can be a VERY tough protocol. Should parents be exempt from the protocol, that would be a worthwhile discussion. If I were that man, would I be rushing in w/ every ounce of energy, absolutely. I see another child in the photo, that kid needs a father too. His mother needs a husband. No good choices.

  14. Uh oh. There is not enough info from this article to come to any logical conclusion. For example, how was the fire started? Who else made it out of the fire alive? I don’t know about you, but I will not be leaving a burning house, knowing that my children (or step-children) are still inside? Where was the wife or mom? Where was the dad? Inside or outside the home when the fire started? Too many questions that this article doesn’t address.

  15. I Agree with iKeith. I am wondering if he typed his comment on an iPad. The ALL CAPS are difficult to wander through. But I agree.
    The cops were totally wrong. It is a dad’s duty to save his child. All risks are on. They send the wrong message to the community of Louisiana, MO and the world.
    His legal suit is unique. He should claim that they prevented him for saving his son, that he could have done so. Loss of life of child is part of damages.

  16. I wonder if the firefighters were aware of the child inside. Similar cases discuss firefighters deciding it was not worth the risk if it is just property or a pet. Then the specter arises if the father was successful.

  17. The report I read claimed the father was tazed three times including once in hand cuffs and once in the police care (while presumably still in hand cuffs.

    If that report were confirmed then I see at least two issues: duty of LE to protect vs a father’s right to act, and what constitutes reasonable force to subdue someone in custody.

  18. 1. I own my body. That is the first of all natural rights. I am free. That is the second. I am, therefore, responsible for myself, my thoughts, and my actions, which I may exercise free of any limitation except as limited by the need to maintain a secure and ordered society. Preventing a father’s suicide mission into a burning residence to recover, at most, the lifeless body of his child is not necessary in order to maintain such a society and therefore should be permitted.

    2. I know the deep love of my wife for her children. They are also mine. And I know my deep love for my wife. And I know the torture of the rest of my days if in her eyes I saw her troubled soul asking why I did not try. I would have gone into that house just to make certain she need ever ask that question. That Mr. Miller would risk his life to save his wife’s child declares his great love for both, and I hope in that love she finds solace.

    I understand the sanctity of life, and I understand the nature of freedom – but to deny a sacrificial declaration of love is to deny both.

  19. Personally, I’d sue the city for loss of chance. The father had the right to try extraordinary measures to save his son and if he can’t show that it is more likely than not he could have succeeded I think a claim could still exist. In fact it is analogous to the rescue doctrine in maritime law which imposes a duty to rescue a man overboard regardless of fault of the ship owner. Here the duty is the strongest form imaginable with a parent-child relationship. Being prevented from that opportunity to fulfill your duty should give rise to some form of liability since I am aware of no law preventing altruism. Recall you need only obey a “lawful” order of the police and only so much of the order as needed to accomplish the task at hand. That’s why the cops can’t order you to stand on your head at the scene of an accident. Suicide is no crime and the police have no right to deny you the chance to save your kin regardless of their assessment of YOUR risk or YOUR duty.

  20. BFM,
    When you hear of someone in a situation like this having to be Tased again, even after being cuffed, a couple of things have to be considered. Especially since none of us were there and I don’t see any videos of the actual incident online. First, Mr. Miller is a very large man. Pumped on adrenaline, grief, frustration and then rage at being held back, he would have had almost superhuman strength. I have seen an average-size man break the chain link on a set of Smith & Wesson handcuffs when enraged.

    The fact this case brings up so much emotion on the part of most of our normally mild mannered commenters, including Professor Turley, gives a glimpse of just a tiny fraction of what Mr. Miller must have been feeling. As Nick pointed out, it is the job of the first responders to try and go into the building. For one thing, they are already wearing protective gear and no doubt had an air tank and breathing mask to protect from smoke. If it was so bad none of them could go in, it would have been certain death for Mr. Miller.

    Having said all that, the entire Miller family has my deepest condolences. Speaking as one who has buried both a son and a grandson, I have walked in those shoes. There is almost no deeper grief.

    In some of the news interviews seen on videos, there were some interviewees who referred to the officers as being cruel and “hard hearted.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Part of my job is debriefing and counseling with police and firefighters who experience such events. Those are the silent victims. I have had to recommend retirement on worker’s comp benefits for several first responders due to PTSD. I cannot go into any detail due to confidentiality issues, but there have been three in the past year I have recommended separation from the agency and early retirement on disability.

  21. Found a more complete source on this tragic story. The step father was in the process of adopting the child. The child was still breathing when they got him out of the house and was transported to the hospital where he died. At the same time the child was being transported to the hospital, the police took the father to jail and placed him in a holding cell.

    The following print source also has another story on this incident wherein the history of the Sgt. who tasered and put the father in jail is detailed.

    I’ll list the first link here and the second link immed. after in second posting


  22. Blouise,

    Thank you….. I appreciate the posting about the stepdad adopting the stepson….. What people don’t understand regardless of the relationship a child needs nuturing …..and if he was stepping up to the plate then all the better….

  23. It seems that the police could’ve dealt with him differently. I don’t see any need to have tasered him, werent there enough people to physically restrain him? Then throw him in a cell after? That seems quite cruel. So many cases of police overreacting. What the heck did cops do before the advent of tasers?

  24. In a Government society, people have increasingly fewer voluntary choices every year, and this is horrific experience and loss for Ryan Miller is just one example.

    A self-ordered society based on Social Meta-Needs, one without government/top-down implementation, would reduce the harm occurrence by the understanding of the consequences of an UnRequested Action initiated by another. An example with logical variations in such a society has been provided “to be a prototype for, or representative of, many other real world situations (by alterations that do not change the logic, Choice Estimations and Effects related to successive possible Events) of InterActions between Freemen where the initiating party is well Intentioned but hir Actions may nevertheless cause Harm and sometimes even Responsible Harm.” Included is the situation of individual B who attempts to forcibly stop individual A from stepping onto a road given certain assumptions and conditions including B had no Intent to Harm A. http://selfsip.org/solutions/interaction_examples/intent_benefit/index.html

    The point is that government and its use of physical force is NOT necessary for an orderly society. The nature of human beings does not automatically lead to the conclusion that individuals must be ruled by others in order that there be orderly interactions between them. Society, just like any other natural system can be naturally self-regulating by means of interactions between its members, if only humans seek to discover and are allowed to implement the methods by which such self-regulation can be effective, rather than continuing to embrace social systems that need to be constantly held in an unnatural (and very unoptimal) state of balance by the operations of their rulers and other influencers. Individual self-order without rule by others is the social system whose members are fully adult (particularly meaning self-responsible) humans. Just as people can become physical adults, so can they become psychological and social adults – if only they are allowed (and even required in the sense that they will not achieve their desires unless they do) to socially mature sufficiently.

    Understanding the social interaction methodology by which more individuals would progress to become fully socially mature adults requires a paradigm shift in thinking about human interactions.

  25. But not to worry … the cop is still on duty … the City provided grief counselors for the firefighters and … the City’s insurance company is investigating!!

    BTW … the police did not provide the father with medical attention while he was in custody … he had to do that for himself when they released him. He received treatment at a local hospital.

    Oh well, all the important people were looked after.

  26. I think the father had a God given right to try to save his child. I’ll never understand how the firemen and police could just stand by and let a 3 year old child die.

  27. Upon reading the news story Blouise posted, it appears the firefighters did NOT stand by. They went in and got the child, but the child died. As I said before, smoke kills most fire victims long before they burn, according to postmortem pathology data. The problem I have observed over the years is that panicked and frightened family members trying to do their own rescue effort actually take up valuable time by the actual rescuers.

    Well meaning but ill advised efforts of family or “volunteers” have the potential to disrupt the real rescue effort by well equipped firefighters or rescue workers, that it has the unintended consequence of making the rescue too late.

  28. I’m with Mespo 100% on this one. It’s the father’s life and if he wants to risk it, then this should be his choice. Firemen won’t go into a building when it’s too risky for them, but that most certainly does not mean it’s a suicide mission or impossible to still get someone out. That’s not where they draw the line. It just means that the risk is too much for the firemen. It’s right and appropriate that there comes a point where they should not be expected to risk their lives and I don’t criticize the firemen who decided the risks were too great for them. But, it’s not their place or the cops’ place to make that decision for the father.

  29. What Keith and Mespo said. If I’ve got loved ones (or pets for that matter), it’s my decision to go in. If the FD and PD want to stay outside, fine. They have NO innate right to prevent me from trying to save another life. And you know what? Maybe they were wrong. Maybe the child could have been saved.

  30. I apologize for noting a very peripheral issue regarding this tragedy but as Blouise points out there are much better sources available. The Daily Mail is a trash paper. It is not involved in journalism except as purient titillation and it astounds me that a respected professor and legal authority would use it for a source. If it is an issue that is worth pursuing, other legitimate publications will cover it.

  31. I can understand the ambiguity of allowing the father to attempt a rescue of his child, however, the police are guilty of moral failure. They took the father to jail rather than to the hospital where his son was.

  32. The igPays do not have a right to prevent him from entering a burning building to save his son. The use of deadly force (taser) is an assault and battery with deadly force by a state actor in violation of his civil rights under Title 42 United States Code Section 1983 and the shooter and his supervisor and the city who employes those two are all liable for damages. And if the guy has another house in the town and another kid then he should sue for injunction to prevent them from doing it again.

  33. Breaking News: ‘Hero’ Father maybe charged with murdering his step son, and has acquired the services of an attorney. Father refuses to talk to the media, Fox2News St. Louis reporting.

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