Troopers Association Opens its Own Investigation

By: By: Scott Saxton
By: By: Scott Saxton

A fiery crash killed two Ohio troopers and a young mother in Gallipolis in September. Last week, investigators announced the trooper behind the wheel was driving drunk.

Now, the Ohio State Troopers Association promises its own investigation into the matter. The OSTA is working to prove that Joshua Risner did not drink alcohol the morning of the accident.

The coroner's report showed Risner had a blood alcohol content of .08, but the association in a news release said there is a long list of evidence that proves there was no alcohol in his system.

Risner and fellow trooper Dale Holcomb died in the crash. The woman in the other vehicle, Lori Smith, also died.

***READ THE ENTIRE NEWS RELEASE FROM THE OHIO STATE TROOPERS ASSOCIATION BELOW***

A Statement from Herschel M. Sigall

General Counsel, Ohio State Troopers Association

For Immediate Release

October 17, 2006

RISNER INVESTIGATION INCLUDES HIRING CERTIFIED TOXICOLOGIST

The Ohio State Troopers Association has determined to conduct its own investigation into allegations that Trooper Josh Risner was operating his cruiser under the influence of alcohol prior to the deadly Gallia County crash. The OSTA investigative staff has been given the assignment. In addition, OSTA has determined to retain a qualified toxicologist to conduct an independent review of the analysis and procedures used to produce the blood-alcohol content of Trooper Risner following his death.

An OHP press release issued last Thursday, October 13, 2006, Colonel McClellan announced that an autopsy had established Trooper Josh Risner’s blood–alcohol content at .08 and declared that at .08 Trooper Risner would be “presumed to be driving drunk in Ohio”. (Columbus Dispatch 10/14/06)

What the OHP News Release did not announce was that a body in decomposition will produce ethanol synthesis. Post mortem blood test taken under such conditions will show the existence of alcohol in the blood where no alcohol was consumed. As a noted professor of forensic medicine has said “Distinguishing the dead sober from the dead drunk, is not as simple as it might seem”. Within hours after death bacteria in the body enter the bloodstream. Where, as in the case of Trooper Risner, death was accompanied by hemorrhage and the organ rupture of a violent death, there is provided “particularly fertile conditions for ethanol (alcohol) synthesis.”

Yesterday, Bridget Risner was informed by the OHP that Workers Compensation was contesting her family’s right to Workers Compensation survivor’s benefits.

The current status of our investigation reveals the following facts:


  • Trooper Risner and Bridget had dinner at a restaurant in Chillicothe before he reported for his 11P to 7A shift. Physical evidence of that dinner discloses no alcohol was ordered by either of them. They left the restaurant at approximately 7:15 PM.
  • Josh reported to the Post and spent a considerable amount of time engaging in conversation with two other Troopers in the highly confined area of the Post. Neither Trooper observed anything that would lead them to believe that Josh had consumed alcohol prior to reporting for duty.
  • A fellow 11P Trooper spent a considerable amount of time during the shift with Josh at a rest area. The Trooper observed nothing in the conduct or demeanor or Josh to indicate that he had been drinking and Josh did not attempt to avoid contact as he might be expected to do if he had in fact been drinking while on duty.
  • During the course of his shift, Josh had interaction with Gallia County Deputy Sheriffs. One of the Deputies has confirmed that he observed nothing in Josh’s conduct or demeanor that would lead him to believe Josh had been drinking. He observed no signs of alcohol impairment. The other Deputy has yet to be contacted.
  • The evidence is that Josh volunteered to pick up Sergeant Dale Holcomb. It is unlikely, based upon knowledge of Sergeant Holcomb, that Josh would volunteer to pick up Sergeant Holcomb if he thought there was any chance he might be identified as having been drinking.
  • Evidence discloses that during his shift Josh stopped at a local gas station and purchased a sandwich and soda, as was his practice.
  • Sergeant Holcomb was not at the wheel at the time of the crash. It is assumed that if Sergeant Holcomb suspected that Josh had been drinking, Holcomb would have been at the wheel at the time of the crash.
  • Following the crash a blood draw was conducted upon Josh that was analyzed by the OHP and disclosed an alcohol-blood content of .00. This draw was from the carotid artery. This draw is the standard practice of the OHP in fatal accidents including those where fire was involved following the crash.
  • Bridget Risner did not object to an autopsy or prevent an autopsy. She did not find out that Dr. Whitely proposed to have an autopsy conducted until funeral arrangements were made and announced. It was at that time she determined that an autopsy would be appropriate to be conducted following the funeral.
  • Following the funeral at the high school, the body of Trooper Risner was not immediately taken to Dayton for autopsy, but was transported back to the funeral home.
  • By the time the autopsy was performed nearly 60 hours had expired and the body had been exposed to the effects of decomposition accelerated by the fire and the major trauma to vital large organs.
  • It is probable that no vitreous fluid was extracted and tested, as should accompany any testing of a body that has undergone the effects of decomposition. That fact will be established by a review of the autopsy itself. The Toxicologist will examine all relevant documents related to the autopsy and earlier blood draw.
  • The above listed information is part of an ongoing investigation. Nothing known to date points to Josh Risner having been under the influence at the time of his death.

We will continue to keep you advised.


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