While three local law enforcement officers have been legally cleared after they shot a suspect in August, they still face an internal investigation.
Both Buchanan County Sheriff Bill Puett, and St. Joseph Police Captain Jeff Wilson said internal reviews are typical after officers fire their weapons. They also said that even though the officers involved were found justified in their actions by Buchanan County Prosecuting Attorney Ron Holliday, sometimes internal reviews uncover policy violations and learning opportunities.
The officers who fired were Buchanan County Investigators Erica Tate and Billy Paul Miller, and St. Joseph Police Detective Aaron King, according to Holliday.
In a press release Sept. 9, Holliday idenfitied the suspect who was shot as Roger Ricker Jr.
“Ricker presented a danger to the lives of the officers on the scene. Their decision to use deadly force against Mr. Ricker under those circumstances is authorized by Missouri law and as such, there is no basis to issue criminal charges against either of the officers,” Holliday said.
Puett said his investigators have been restored to full duty because of Holliday’s decision, but that a “use of force” investigation will be conducted once the Missouri State Highway Patrol, which conducted the initial criminal investigation, turns over its reports. Puett said there’s no specific timetable for that process.
“Any use of force there’s going to be a review where we’ll look at whether the level of force was appropriate for the situation,” Puett said.
He said the Sheriff’s Department also conducts other reviews called internal affairs investigations.
“It’s one where we’d look at issues of violation of policy, conduct or performance,” Puett said.
Wilson said he couldn’t comment on specific cases, but explained the different tracks internal reviews can take.
“In an investigation following a complaint on the demeanor of an officer, those types of investigations are handled at the supervisor level,” he said. “Then you have incidents that involve criminal violations.”
While the minor complaints can be handled by lower-ranking officers, other potential violations are handled by a specific department.
“Those are much more serious,” Wilson said. “They rise to the level of an internal investigation that’s actually done through our professional standards office.”