Thursday, October 25, 2012

Firefighter Mike Risher - Channel 7 investigation

WXYZ / Channel 7, Detroit [reporter Scott Lewis] investigation of Detroit Firefighter Mike Risher's violence against women:

2005: A woman said she and Risher were arguing in the back seat of a minivan when Risher head-butted her. When she fought back, she said that Risher pinned her down and choked her.

  2006: Risher gets in a bar fight and assaults a woman. The assault is caught on the bar's video cam.

  2006: When police respond to Risher's assault of the woman, Risher flashes his badge and claims to the responding police that he is the victim.The police arrest the woman that Risher is seen attacking on the bar's video.

  2006: Victim of Risher's attack in the bar filed a lawsuit against Risher. She is awarded $15,000. But Risher only pays a small portion of the suit.

  March 12, 2008: Risher's ex-wife had filed a domestic violence assault report with the police department. Charges were never filed against Risher.

  Unknown Date: Risher's ex-wife had filed a domestic violence assault report with the police department. Charges were never filed against Risher.

  September 18, 2009: Risher's ex-wife had filed a domestic violence assault report with the police department. Charges were never filed against Risher.

  March 08, 2011: Risher assaulted Jennifer Panduren at a bar, when she and her friend Samantha Strozynski turned down his advances. Assault was caught on a security cam. Police refuse to review secuirty cam tape. Police refuse to file charges against Risher.

  March 08, 2011: Risher assaulted Samantha Strozynski at a bar, when she and her friend Jennifer Panduren turned down his advances. Assault was caught on a security cam. Police refuse to review secuirty cam tape. Police refuse to file charges against Risher.

  March 08, 2011: Risher arrested for disorderly conduct for assaulting Panduren and Strozynski. Charges were later dismissed.

  March 08, 2011: Panduren [assaulted by Risher] was arrested for disorderly conduct. Charges were later dismissed.

  Summer 2011: Risher attacked a woman when he accused her of spilling his drink. Risher picked her up by her neck and slammed her onto a boat deck after he accused her of spilling his drink.




Remember: Michigan state officials did not investigate Detroit Firefighter Mike Risher. The police departments refused to investigate Firefighter Mike Risher's assaults on women; and the Detroit Fire Department has never so much as reprimanded Risher.

This investigation was done by WXYZ News reporter Scott Lewis. He was the only one who would listen to Firefighter Mike Risher's victims and expose what everyone else was allowing Risher to get away with.



New, disturbing information on off-duty firefighter Mike Risher who attacked two women
Posted: 11/15/2012
WXYZ News, Detroit
By: Scott Lewis
http://www.wxyz.com/dpp/news/local_news/investigations/women-say-firefighter-used-badge-to-get-out-of-trouble7-action-news-investigation-turns-the-tide




(WXYZ) - The 7 Action News Investigators have uncovered new, disturbing information about the off-duty Detroit firefighter who attacked two women; this may not be his first offense of this kind.

Police are now looking into the case of off-duty firefighter Mike Risher attacking two women; Jennifer Panduren and Samantha Strozynski outside a bar in 2001. A high-profile attorney has also stepped in.

Meanwhile, two additional women told 7 Action News they were previously attacked by Risher.

It was Paczi Day 2011 when Panduren and Strozynski were arguing with Risher outside the Mars Bar in Hamtramck. Witnesses said Risher punched both in the face and knocked them to the pavement.

"I said to him, I was like, 'Oh, you're big, you're gonna punch a girl.’ And, yeah, I ate my words I guess you can say because he definitely did," Jennifer Panduren said.

Despite presenting security video to police, Strozynski says "Nobody would ever let us make a police report.”

Both women say they believe Risher received a free pass from police because he works as a firefighter.

An independent witness said police told him nothing much would come of the incident because Risher was a Detroit firefighter.

But everything changed after the 7 Action News Investigators exposed this incident three weeks ago.

After our investigation aired, Hamtramck Police brought in Panduren and Strozynski for interviews. They also took statements from two witnesses and are retrieving the women's medical records to document their injuries.

Hamtramck police Chief Maxwell Garbarino confirmed detectives are preparing a warrant request for the Wayne County prosecutor, seeking charges against the Risher. This comes a year and half after the incident happened.

High-powered attorney Ven Johnson has also offered to help Panduren and Strozynski. Johnson said although there is likely little or no money in it, he is preparing to file a civil lawsuit against Risher.

"No one's above the law. No one's above the law,” Johnson told Scott Lewis. “And it doesn't matter what you do for a living or who you work for, or how much money you make, you can't punch other people in the face and get away with it unprovoked. And that's exactly what we think Mr. Risher did."

Meanwhile, two additional women have come forward claiming Risher once attacked them as well.

One woman provided 7 Action News with pictures showing a scrape on her neck. She said the injury occurred last summer when Risher picked her up by her neck and slammed her onto a boat deck after he accused her of spilling his drink. An eyewitness backed up her story.

A second woman said Risher assaulted her in 2005. She said she and Risher were arguing in the back seat of a minivan when Risher head-butted her. When she fought back, she said that Risher pinned her down and choked her. That incident was also confirmed by a witness.

As we previously reported Risher and his then girlfriend were also sued over a bar fight in 2006 and ordered to pay the victims $15,000.

The lawsuit said that "Risher appears to be suffering from the effects of too many steroids. He has a larger than usual physic and a violent temper which he has trouble controlling".

Risher's ex-wife and a former girlfriend both confirm that he has taken steroids prescribed by a doctor.

Reports also show police were called to the Risher's Clinton Township home three times for domestic incidents. In one case, Risher's wife said he pushed her into a table, and knocked the wind out of her leaving a visible scrape. The report says she wanted to press charges but for some reason they were never filed.

Risher worked for a year in the Mount Clemens Fire Department but was terminated in 2003.

His six month performance evaluation gave him unsatisfactory ratings in "ability to get along with others," "carrying out instructions," and “work attitude.”

In all, Risher is accused of attacking five different women since 2005 with no significant repercussions.

Attorney Ven Johnson says it’s his motivation to push the Hamtramck case in civil court.

"My clients have the right to insist that [Risher] be held absolutely accountable for the last year going almost a year and a half,” said Johnson. “He was walking the streets smiling laughing about what he did to these ladies."

Hamtramck Police arrested Risher for disorderly conduct after the Mars Bar incident, but the ticket was later dismissed by a judge.

After Hamtramck Police submit their warrant request, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office will decide whether there is enough evidence to support a criminal charge.

Detroit Fire Commissioner Donald Austin released this statement to 7 Action News:

"The Detroit Fire Department learned of the allegations against Michael Risher when this story originally aired a few weeks ago. The Department has begun a thorough investigation of this incident.

"Regardless of whether criminal charges are filed, we need to determine whether Fire Fighter Risher violated the rules and regulations of the Detroit Fire Department. When our investigation is completed, we will take the appropriate disciplinary action, if any is warranted."

We also reached out to Mike Risher asking for comment on these latest developments.

So far, he has not responded.








           

Women seek justice after firefighter punches, throws them to the ground
Posted: 10/25/2012
date of assault - 03/08/11
By: Scott Lewis
WXYZ News, Detroit
http://www.wxyz.com/dpp/news/local_news/investigations/suburban-women-turn-to-7-action-news-investigators-for-justice-after-being-punched-by-firefighter




















(WXYZ) - Two suburban women are turning to the 7 Action News Investigators looking for justice.

They say they were viciously attacked outside of a bar in Hamtramck, and the man who hit them is an off-duty Detroit Firefighter.

The question is: did he use his badge to wiggle off the hook?

It all happened on Paczki Day last year. Samantha Strozynski and her friend Jennifer Panduren went out together, doing some bar-hopping to celebrate Fat Tuesday in Hamtramck.

At the Mars Bar, Strozynski struck up a conversation with an off-duty Detroit firefighter named Mike Risher.

Just before 5:00 p.m., all hell broke loose outside the bar as Strozynski and Panduren were leaving. Paczki day suddenly turned into "punch me" day. As the women were standing on the sidewalk near a crosswalk, they had words with Risher, a burly firefighter and body builder.

Strozynski said she told Risher that she and Panduren were going to get something to eat. She said Risher wanted to go along and became agitated and wouldn’t take no for an answer.

"So Jennifer got upset and looked at him and said, 'why are you following us'?" said Strozynski.

The women told 7 Action News that Risher threatened to "F" them up.

"I said to him, I was like, 'Oh, you're big, you're gonna punch a girl?’And, yea, I ate my words I guess you can say because he definitely did," said Panduren.

Security video from the Mars Bar shows the women being hit and knocked off their feet. First, Panduren is seen staggering backward after Risher pushed and punched her, witnesses said.

Then Stozynski is seen getting punched in the head and going down hard to the pavement. Next, the video shows Panduren stepping forward again, throwing a kick in the firefighter’s direction, getting punched a second time and falling face down into a concrete planter.

"When I took the fall the second time, I bashed my head up there and ended up with three herniated discs in my neck. He dislocated my jaw, chipped like four or five of my teeth,” said Panduren.

“When I first went to see my chiropractor he told me that the force of the punch that I took was the equivalent of getting hit by a car going 45 miles an hour," Strozynski said.

In the security video, both women are seen sitting on the ground briefly after being hit and they appear to be temporarily dazed. Then, male customers are seen rushing out of the bar trying to restrain Risher. At one point, at least six men are seen attempting to hold Risher down. But, he still breaks free.

Also in the video, Panduren, who admitted she was drunk and very angry at being punched, jumped into the scrum as male bar patrons were trying to restrain Risher. Next, Strozynski is seen pulling Panduren to the ground and attempting to hold her back.

"And I just knew that if she continued it was only going to fuel the fire and make things worse," Strozynski told 7 Action News. After Risher broke free from the men trying to restrain him, he is seen getting in Strozynski’s face again as she is holding onto her friend. At that point, the video shows Strozynski throwing a punch at Risher.

"I mean it was either I sat there and I let him punch me, you know, or I defended myself," said Strozynski.

When Hamtramck police arrived Risher claimed that the fight actually started inside the bar and that Panduren started the brawl by hitting him in the face twice. He claimed that he swung back and had to defend himself after other people jumped in.

But the owner of the Mars Bar, who reviewed all of the security videos, inside and outside, told 7 Action News that there was no fighting inside the bar and it looked to him like Risher simply punched the two women after they had words.

Two other witnesses told police that Risher "had gone ballistic, throwing punches at Strozinski and Panduren".

The 7 Action News Investigators tracked down one of those two witnesses. He told Scott Lewis that he just happened to be walking by when the incident happened and that he didn't know any of the people involved. He said he waited around to talk to police because he had never seen anybody hit someone that hard.

A police report on the incident lists Risher’s height at six-feet, two-inches tall and weight at 275 pounds. Strozynski said she is four-feet, eleven-inches tall and Panduren put her height at five feet, one inch.

That witness who was tracked down by 7 Action News also said that when he told one of the officers what he saw, a cop responded: "I can tell you right now, not much is going to come of this because he's a Detroit fireman.”

Police did arrest Risher and Panduren for disorderly conduct and both charges were later dismissed by a judge.

When Strozinski got a copy of the security video from the Mars Bar, she said tried repeatedly to file a police report in Hamtramck, to no avail.

"Nobody would ever let us make a police report,” Stozynski said.

“You wanted to press charges for assault?” Scott Lewis asked.

“ Absolutely!” Strozynski said emphatically.

Both women told Lewis they believe that

Risher got a free pass from the Hamtramck Police Department because of his position as a Detroit firefighter.

When the 7 Action News Investigators approached Risher to get his side of the story he seemed to have amnesia. Lewis said he wanted to talk to him about the incident at the Mars Bar.

“(Do) you know what I'm talking about?” Lewis asked.

“I'm not sure what the Mars Bar is," Richer replied.

“The incident where you punched the two ladies?” Lewis asked.

“Ah,no,” Risher replied.

“You don't recall it?” Lewis persisted.

“ No, I didn't punch any ladies," Risher stated.

When Lewis told Risher he had security video of the incident and offered to show it to him, he declined. Then his memory seemed to improve.

"The fight had started earlier than that and I jumped in to help out so, you know, I'm not sure exactly what you have or if you have the whole entire thing, I don't know," Risher said.

Risher denied using his badge to get a pass in Hamtramck.

But is the incident outside of the Mars Bar a case of déjà vu?

The Investigators dug into Risher’s past and discovered he and a former girlfriend, whom he later married, were involved in an eerily similar bar brawl back in 2006.

That was also caught on a security video tape obtained by 7 Action News.

According a lawsuit filed in Macomb County Circuit Court, Risher's girlfriend started the fight with a newly-wed couple and Risher jumped into the fray. The lawsuit says that when police arrived Risher "flashed his firefighter badge" and claimed the victim was the aggressor.

Attorney Roy Transit, who represented the couple, said the police just accepted Risher’s story as the truth because he worked as a Detroit firefighter.

"And then it immediately went against my client and they arrested her, rather than listening to anything they had to say or going and looking at the video tape that the bar had," Transit said.

The Macomb County Prosecutor eventually dropped the charges and the couple sued Risher and his wife. The couple won a judgment ordering the Risher’s to pay $15,000. Transit said the Risher’s stopped making payments and still owe the couple about $11,000.

In their lawsuit, the couple claimed that Risher’s angry assault was fueled by the use of steroids.

"Risher appears to be suffering from the effects of too many steroids,” says the suit.

“He has a larger than usual physique and a violent temper which he has trouble controlling," Transit wrote in a court filing.

Our 7 Action News investigation also uncovered allegations of violence at home. Police reports indicate that officers were called to the Risher's home three times for domestic incidents. In one case, Risher's wife claimed that he pushed her into a table and knocked the wind out of her. The report noted that Risher’s wife had a small scrape on her body and said that she wanted to press charges. However, there is no indication in police or court records that any charges were ever filed.

Strozynski and Panduren said that Risher’s past paints a troubling picture for a man who wears a badge and gets paid with tax dollars.

"He doesn't deserve it. He doesn't. There are so many other people out there who are so much more deserving than he is," said Strozynski.

7 Action News emailed Risher a copy of the security video from the Mars Bar. We asked him to point out where in the video he was seen intervening in another fight as he claimed. We also asked him about allegations raised in the prior bar fight and the alleged assault on his wife.

Risher did not respond.

The Investigators also contacted Hamtramck Police Chief Maxwell Garbarino and asked him why officers did not allow the women to make a report or look at their video. Garbarino, who was not the chief at the time of the incident, indicated that a detective should have followed up on the complaint. Garbarino has now assigned a detective to take a fresh look at the incident and he said both women will be brought into the police department for interviews.

7 Action News also contacted Detroit Fire Commissioner Donald Austin and asked him whether Risher’s behavior could be in violation of any fire department rules or regulations. Austin indicated he would be watching our investigation and stated that there is a chance Risher could be charged departmentally with conduct unbecoming of a firefighter.

The second video in the player above is the raw surveillance video.

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