The New York State Police have wrapped up their investigation into the Dec. 9, 2011 car-crash death off-duty Town of Ulster cop and Miller Middle School resource officer Travis Nissen and said alcohol, as well as possible fatigue and inattention, played a role in the crash on Route 28 in Olive.
Toxicology results revealed that Nissen had a blood alcohol content of 0.18 percent — more than twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent — which was cited as a contributing factor in his death as well as fatigue and/or driving inattention.
Town of Ulster Police Chief Matt Taggard, Nissen’s supervisor and friend, said he was devastated to learn of the circumstances that contributed to Nissen’s death. However, Taggard insisted that this was not usual conduct for the beloved resource officer whose death released a wave of grief and outpouring of love in the community. “This is very out of character for [Nissen],” said Taggard. “He made a mistake and paid the ultimate price for it. Since then, not a week goes by when I don’t find some new life that he’s touched in some way. While the conclusion of the investigation is saddening, we are accountable for our actions.”
Taggard said that he will continue to stay focused on Nissen’s positive impact, which was vast, he said. Taggard hopes that parents talk to their kids about the many powerful lessons associated with both Nissen’s life and death while on the spring break this week, and plans to wait and see how the schools wish to handle informing the students before getting involved.
Taggard said that Nissen’s presence in life far superseded the unfortunate circumstances of his death, pointing to a long chain of students’ handprints which stretch around the entire school as a “No Bullying, No Name-Calling” pledge in honor of Nissen, whose widow is a Miller special education teacher. No Bullying, No Name-Calling was a campaign that Nissen took very seriously.
“The truth in this event is its own lesson,” said Taggard. “The best lesson you can give them. Law enforcement is our job. It’s a way of life. Whoever among us is without sin should cast the first stone. There are penalties to be paid when people make those mistakes. Travis paid his penalty with his life. There is nothing that he did that we respect any less. Here we are months and months later and still finding people who he touched. The well seems very deep. I hope that this mistake speaks into somebody’s life.”
Slideshow image: Travis Nissen’s casket is brought into St. Joseph’s Church for his funeral Mass last December. (Photo by Dan Barton)