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JPD details wild chase of alleged drug dealer

Posted: November 6, 2011 - 12:09am

It took three officers, three Tasers and many months to take down an alleged street-level drug dealer who has long been on the lam.

Details behind the 2010 arrest of Rorie Miller, 31, who has fled from officers on at least three different occasions, surfaced in court this week and last month during a series of preliminary evidentiary hearings held to resolve factual disputes of the case surrounding his July 8 arrest.

Miller was found to be in possession of a relatively small amount of drugs — 1.9 grams of heroin, 1 gram of methamphetamine and a small baggie of marijuana — but it was a fight to wrestle it from him, according to testimony from two police officers and Bartlett Regional Hospital medical staff.

Former JPD Officer Jacob Abbott, now an Alaska State Trooper, testified police received a tip Miller, who had an outstanding warrant for his arrest, was residing at the Eaglewood Apartments on Renninger Street. When confronted at the apartment, Miller sprinted towards a small corridor near the front of the building. Officer Jason Van Sickle discharged his Taser device, but only one node hit Miller instead of two, Abbott said.

“He stumbled, but didn’t fall,” Abbott recalled.

Miller, believed by police at the time to be armed and dangerous, kept running towards an small dirt access road while the three officers gave chase and were yelling at him to stop. Abbott said he deployed his Taser, causing Miller to fall. But Abbott was unable to handcuff him because he had also fallen on the dirt road during the pursuit.

“He immediately got back up and continued to run,” Abbott said.

The third JPD officer, Shawn Phelps, ran past Abbott as he recovered and Tased Miller for the third time off the roadway in a wooded area. Abbott placed him in handcuffs, and the three officers assisted Miller walking back to the patrol car as they called medics to the scene, which is JPD policy whenever Tasers are discharged, Abbott said. During the walk back, Abbott testified Miller did not talk and his head was kept down.

“It seemed a little bit abnormal,” Abbott said.

They grew suspicious Miller had something in his mouth or throat, Abbott said, and “We told him to talk to us or spit it out.” Miller refused, he said, and clenched his mouth shut. Meanwhile, one of the officers called the medics again to “expedite the response,” Abbott said.

Abbott said he saw one officer use his index finger and thumb to apply pressure to Miller’s jaw-line’s pressure point, and another officer used the blunt end of a pen to force his mouth open.

“It had pretty much no effect, so he abandoned that,” Abbott said.

The ambulance arrived on scene within five to seven minutes, and after a calm ambulance ride with Miller lying on his side on the gurney, the struggle began once more in the BRH emergency room.

One of the emergency room nurses who provided care to Miller, Cecilia Brenner, testified in mid-October that he was kicking and fighting and spitting blood. Another police officer, Steve Warnaca, testified he was “violently thrashing” about.

Brenner said her primary concerns were that if Miller did have drugs in his mouth, he would code if they were ingested, and the unknown object in his mouth could also be blocking his airway, she said.

She says she used a thin, rounded wooden reed to try to wedge his mouth open, and placed a small breathing tube in his mouth as Abbott sat on his legs and Warnaca held down his arms to restrain him. Miller’s gag reflex finally helped expel the object from his mouth, she said.

“He called me a f---ing b---h, (and said that) ‘I had ruined his life,’” Brenner remembered. “I said, ‘I saved your life.’”

Several baggies were extracted from Miller’s mouth, and they later tested positive for heroin, meth and marijuana, according to an affidavit of counsel.

Two more evidentiary hearings are scheduled for late December, according to electronic court records, and more officers involved are expected to testify.

Miller is charged with second- and third-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance and tampering with evidence.

He is also involved in other active cases, including one that alleges he dealt a total of 31/2 Oxycodone pills to a JPD confidential informant in two separate controlled drug buys in January of 2010.

He faces two counts of second-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance in that case; felony charges in another case that allege he failed to stop for an officer in a brief high-speed chase in January of this year; and charges he violated the conditions of his probation stemming from a 2001 robbery conviction.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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