Judge Says Park Rangers Probably Shouldn't Tase People With Off-Leash Doggies

So just in case you haven't completely lost faith in every single branch of law enforcement over the last few months, from the local cops to the Secret Service, here's one more story to set your teeth on edge, even if it had sort of a satisfactory outcome:

A federal magistrate judge awarded $50,000 to California man after a park ranger used a Taser on him during a confrontation over an unleashed dog.

Gary Hesterberg was walking his two dogs Jan. 29, 2012, at Rancho Corral de Tierra, which had recently come under the oversight of National Park Rangers as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

His rat terrier was off-leash, but Hesterberg’s beagle was leashed because the dog “was not the smartest tool in the shed,” reported KQED-TV.

OK, we are willing to believe that of some beagles, but this whole story is starting to sound pretty sketchy right there. We don't know if the beagle has sued for libel. Or kibble. Or even knows that he will get wet when it rains.

Park Ranger Sarah Cavallaro was only following orders when she issued Hesterberg a warning about a newly instituted leash law at the park, but then things escalated when Hesterberg lied about his identity, because apparently he feared the long leash of the law or something. When Hesterberg insisted that he'd received his warning and didn't have to hang around anymore, Cavallaro told him, nuh-uh, he wasn't allowed to leave because she had not identified him and given him a written warning, and also he was not respectin' her authoriteh.

So, like any logical law officer would do while giving out a leash-law warning, she pulled her Taser gun, aimed it at his chest, and told him to put his hands behind his back. According to court records:

Hesterberg did not put his hands behind his back and instead asked her sarcastically and in disbelief, “What, you’re going to tase me now?” Hesterberg also told Cavallaro something close to, “Don’t tase me, I have a heart condition.” Cavallaro responded, “Well, then turn around and put your hands behind your back.” Hesterberg again did not put his hands behind his back. … Hesterberg turned to his right and began a slow jog south on the trail and got two to three strides into his jog when Cavallaro fired her taser in dart mode, striking Hesterberg in the back and buttock.

Hesterberg fell face-first onto the trail's "degraded asphalt," and while Cavallaro cited him for "failure to obey a lawful order, providing false information and walking a dog off-leash," as well as High Treason and Generally Being A Dick About Things, the local prosecutor declined to pursue any of the charges. Hesterberg filed a federal suit, claiming battery and negligence, as well as Generally Being An Armed Tinpot Dictator With An Inflated Sense of Authority.

Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley found that Cavallaro had used excessive force, and that even though Hesterberg was an asshole who was running away, the charge he was attempting to flee was not serious enough to warrant tasing, especially with the alleged heart condition that he warned Cavallaro of. Corley was not impressed by Cavallaro's boss, who testified that she'd acted within National Park Service guidelines, because the supervisor's testimony "revealed a startling lack of awareness of the law and its application to use of force scenarios," particularly 9th Circuit Court decisions on when cops can use Tasers.

Cavallaro is still a ranger, because the Department of the Interior says she “acted within agency policy and her training.”

Yr Wonkette would just like to say that this is a complex case involving a difficult judgment call, and... actually, fuck that: Hey, park rangers! Stop acting like cops, park rangers, you are park rangers, so STOP IT.

[KQED via RawStory]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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