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News Alert
Car Strikes 12-Year-Old Boy in Pacifica

Name the Ranger, Apologize and Assure Us We Won't Be Unreasonably Tasered

A dog walker shares her concern with the head honchos at the GGNRA over the recent tasering of a man in the Rancho Corral de Tierra open space area.

Editor's note: This letter, sent to National Park Service Golden Gate Superintendent Frank Dean and National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis, was provided to Pacifica Patch by the author, Julianna Wahlmeier.

Dear Superintendent Dean and Director Jarvis:

I am writing to let you know I am extremely concerned about the where the female ranger tasered a man in the back for failing to have his dog on leash--a violation of a newly implemented rule as of December 2011 in that area.   

I often walk my dogs in GGNRA. I follow all leash rules, but am immediately concerned after reading this article that you might have changed some of the provisional rules in areas I walk my dogs (Chrissy Field and Fort Funston) without me noticing the change. The whole GGRNA is still under a provisional and intermediary plan which makes this incident even more troubling. While the rules have not changed now, it is certainly conceivable that they might (and are in fact scheduled to under your proposal) and I would not be aware of the change or timing of the change. I don't deserve to be tasered for not being aware of a rule change in the shifting landscape of the GGNRA dog-walking rules.

I am also highly concerned by the lack of training and judgment utilized in this park ranger's use of force. According to National Park Service's guidelines in NPS Director's Order 9:

"The only justifications for the use of force are:

  •  To defend self
  •  To defend others
  •  To effect an arrest
  •  To restrain or control violent, threatening, or resistive behavior, or to disperse an unlawful group."

According to a witness account published in the January 31, 2012 article by Camden Swita on Pacifica Patch:

“According to her written account, Hesterberg seemed confused as to why he was being held at the scene while the ranger contacted her “base”.

“After ten minutes the man asked her again to let him know why he could not leave or just cite him but she gave him no answer,” Babcock wrote. “My husband even asked her why she was not letting the man go on his way and she told him to stay out of it. Eventually, the man just started walking in our direction so he could go home. This really upset the park ranger and she told him to stop and that he could not leave. Once again the man asked why and just told her to give him a ticket or let him know if he was being arrested. Note that he had already leashed his two small dogs and was puzzled at the fact that he could not leave.”

Babcock also attests that Hesterberg said he had health problems before the ranger deployed her stun gun.

“Since she did not respond as to why he was being detained nor tell him the type of jurisdiction she had over him, he started to walk away and she told him that she would tase him if he walked another step. The man replied that he had a heart condition and to not Taser him as it could be life threatening,” Babcock wrote. “He gave her his back to look at me and my husband in disbelief to what was going on and the park ranger fired her Taser at him.”

According to this account the man did ask the ranger why he was being detained, and the ranger didn’t respond. Other accounts I read said the ranger said she was, “waiting on base”. Despite not telling the man why he was being detained, the ranger repeatedly told the man to stay, but did not actually cite him or arrest him. In the United States, we can only be detained if there is reasonable suspicion that the detained individual was involved in, or about to be involved in a crime. A crime of walking a dog off-leash? This is rule violation, and this type of offense is typically handled by citing and fining the individual—not arresting them. For arrest, the park ranger needed to possess an even higher standard of probable cause that the individual had committed a crime. Again, a crime of walking a dog off-leash in an area that had just made an unpublicized rule change prohibiting walking dogs off-leash less than 2 months after decades where walking dogs off leash was allowed? In the case of detention, courts have found that it is reasonable for a person to leave after a short period of time.  After repeatedly asking for the reason he was being detained, and not provided an answer over at least 10 minutes (and that was just the time the witness was present), it certainly seems to be reasonable behavior for the man to think he was free to go. If the ranger was detaining the man to verify his identity, she should have told him so when he asked. According to witnesses, she didn’t. And when the man requested that he be cited, arrested or allowed to leave, she refused to respond. Instead, according to witness accounts, she repeatedly told him to “stay” and not why, as if he was in fact a dog, and not a U.S. citizen with rights. I rarely carry ID when out walking my dogs, but I still expect to be treated with respect and courtesy by park rangers. The park ranger's training should be sufficient to understand basic civil rights.     

If the park ranger had doubt about his identity, she could have followed him to his car or his house. She could have requested that back-up do so at the trail exit (she apparently had a radio with her). She could have even used discretion and just gave him a warning that she would ticket him next time (supposedly she was there to ‘educate’ GGNRA visitors to the new rules). You can not verify everyone's names via the telephone. He could have given an acquaintance's name (not his). He could have been from out-of-state or from another country.  The GGNRA does attract tourists. Last time I checked, the U.S. had not turned into Nazi Germany and I am not required to carry "papers" or ID on us at all times (especially not carry papers or be tased).

Again, nothing in the above witness account (or others I’ve read) stated that the man was ever informed that he was being arrested--not until after she tased him. Going back the policy stated in Director’s Policy #9, this is not a lawful use of force by your own policy. The tasering was not to defend herself, to defend others, to effect an arrest, to restrain or control a violent person. It can’t be considered an effectuation of an arrest, when he was not informed, despite asking, that he was being arrested. All witness accounts say that he wasn’t violent and was in fact walking away as proven by the fact that the ranger tased him in the back.  

If the man did inform the park ranger that he had a heart condition right before he was tasered (and why would the witness lie about this?), then the park ranger did not just use unwarranted and excessive force, she used potentially deadly force in response to a rule violation. It makes me literally sick to my stomach to think that one of your park rangers is so power- and authority-mad that they have no regard for human life! She could have easily killed the man. People die from being tasered all the time--especially if they have a heart condition. 

In the NPS Director's Order 9, "Commissioned employees may use deadly force only when necessary; i.e. when the ranger, special agent or USPP officer has an objectively reasonable belief, in light of the facts and circumstances confronting the ranger, agent or officer, that the subject of such force poses an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to the ranger, agent or officer, or to another person." So how does the rule violation of walking dogs off leash satisfy this standard? If he did lie about his name, how does that satisfy the standard?  If he did disobey the lawful order (which I still don’t see that any order to stay for an unspecified reason is lawful), then how does that even qualify under the NPS standard for potentially deadly use of force?

I am extremely troubled by the handling of this situation by the NPS. Your spokesman Director Levitt stated the ranger is still on duty. How is this possible given the excessive use of force? And, if she was told he had a heart condition, potentially deadly use of force? She should be suspended with pay pending the investigation. It terrifies me that she is still working in the GGNRA where I visit five times a week. You are putting the public at risk to have a park ranger who has demonstrated a complete lack of rational, reasonable and justified response continuing to patrol the GGRNA.  

You identify the man's name in everything but refuse to name the park ranger.  According to witness reports, she also refused to identify herself when the man asked. You are a public agency and her salary is paid by tax dollars. The public has a right to know her name, especially given your lack of discretion in publishing his name. And especially given that the NPS’s primary reason for why he deserved to be tasered was that he wouldn't provide his accurate name to the park ranger. And now you won't name her to the public? Why does she deserve to be anonymous when she is a public servant performing a public function but a citizen of the U.S. walking his dogs does not? Talk about irony.

I want to see this ranger named, held accountable to the public for her actions, and if witness accounts are accurate (and why would they lie?) fired. I think the NPS should apologize to this man. Further, the NPS should assure visitors to the GGNRA that we won't be unreasonably tasered by power-mad and authority-crazy park rangers. Finally, the NPS should inform the public as to how it ensures that its park rangers are adequately trained, and how it will ensure that the public is adequately informed about changing rules. The NPS ranger’s method of “education” by tasering should not be allowed to continue. 

Sincerely,

Julianna Wahlmeier, San Francisco resident

To read Patch's ongoing coverage of this incident, visit our topic page

George Muteff February 03, 2012 at 08:03 PM
Dogbert, I doubt you want to hear this and far be it from me to interfere with such an elaborate story and set of conclusions; but don't you think you might want to get All the facts in this case Before you reach those conclusions?
Bruce Hotchkiss February 03, 2012 at 08:04 PM
I am far from defending the GGNRA or the Ranger. I am defending the Ranger's right to an unbiased investigation and if warranted punishment. I also believe that the dog-walker bares some responsibility for providing false id to a peace officer. There appear to be witnesses who provided contrary versions (go figure). I for one would like the hyperbole on all sides to stop and let's have a complete investigation into the incident. Let the chips fall where they may.
Dogbert February 03, 2012 at 08:33 PM
"...far be it from me to interfere with such an elaborate story and set of conclusions; but don't you think you might want to get All the facts in this case Before you reach those conclusions?" George Muteff, can you even read? All I stated were facts, quotes and questions. You are projecting your own conclusions. BTW, aren't you the person who recently shot and killed a Boston terrier puppy as described in the Half Moon Bay Review? You need to get together with Michael Vick. or, at the very least, apply for a job with the GGNRA.
bob g February 03, 2012 at 08:48 PM
Bruce H. Now saying that I "inferred" it is just a little weasely, isn't it? Everyone here can read exactly what I wrote. ...and later elaborated for you.
Bruce Hotchkiss February 03, 2012 at 09:10 PM
This is what you said, "We need a photo so that SARAH CAVALLARO can be properly avoided, shamed, discredited etc. As a society, we have these cultural resources at our disposal and need not always defer to legal or administrative process. This two time (that we know of) senseless person is concerned tonight for her job. She should be off the taxpayer's dime." It appears to me and others that you want to punish her before she is convicted of anything. Maybe where you work you can be fired without cause but thankfully she cannot be. If there is just cause we will see what the punishment will be.
George Muteff February 03, 2012 at 09:22 PM
"...can you even read?" "You need to get together with Michael Vick." Flattery will get you everywhere. If it's my skin you are trying to get under (like apparently my comments got under yours), well... you'll have to try harder. "All I stated were facts, quotes and questions." Believe what you like, but now you're just being silly. This thread is littered with comments from you that have as much factual basis as one might find in an effort to prove the Earth is flat. I tried to offer an avenue to calm things down, using logic and reason. I see you'll have non of that. No, instead you reply with personal attacks and vitriol, neither of which subdues your shoot from the hip approach, but rather emphasizes it. I'm not sure how you define "recently", but yes, I was forced to put down one of two dogs that were attempting to kill our livestock on our fenced in property. It was a regrettable incident and, perhaps like this one, could have been avoided by three simple words: responsible pet ownership. But I'm sure you know all about responsible pet ownership and that incident too, right Dogbert? Yeah, you're the man.
ron February 03, 2012 at 09:41 PM
You folks all need to have a beer and relax. If we can't get along on this level, no wonder the idiotic congress we have can't come to terms with anything. I'll buy you all a beer
hutch February 03, 2012 at 10:06 PM
Wow guys it's really not worth discussing this with people that have obvious character flaws. You'd have better luck trying to convince an Oakland gang banger that they should obey the cops. At least they're smart enough to know how to behave when being ticketed. Just let these people go out and try to walk away from a cop. Natural selection will take care of the rest.
bob g February 03, 2012 at 10:17 PM
hutch That's your argument? That everybody else has character flaws and will get their comeuppance someday? You seem either young or simple.
Dogbert February 04, 2012 at 12:22 AM
I guess when one has a gun, or a taser, readily available why bother with the hard stuff?
hutch February 04, 2012 at 01:06 AM
Or simply young... badambam
bob g February 04, 2012 at 01:12 AM
Bruce H. You appear so deferential to process that you that you think it should control our opinions. I honestly don't care if she acted within her rights. I can still hold, and express, the opinion that she is a dangerous combination of arrogance and incompetence. An example: I may be within my rights to outsmart widows out of their life savings but others are free to think and say that I'm a creep. And they need not await the conclusion of any process before they think or say it. This is often referred to as "Free Speech" BTW. You don't seem to require the completion of process before applauding her behavior.
Bruce Hotchkiss February 04, 2012 at 01:21 AM
bob I believe that one should be judged before punished. You seem to believe that if you think someone did wrong they should be punished. I prefer to hear all the evidence before making a judgement. If after an investigation the Ranger is found to have acted improperly she will be punished. The punishment could be as easy as a letter of reprimand to dismissal. You have advocated that she lose her job without any investigation or hearing. That is anti-American bob, more like the Salem witch trials than the way our justice system is supposed to work. I would hate to be accused of anything in your world because for you it seems an accusation equals guilt.
bob g February 04, 2012 at 01:22 AM
Of course. Don't stay up too late.
bob g February 04, 2012 at 01:40 AM
Bruce H. You confuse legal and social sanctions. Courts can remove only property, rights or freedom. BTW, A job is none of those. But the point you're missing is that prior to an action for dismissal there must first be a call for dismissal. There's no prosecution without a prosecutor.
Bruce Hotchkiss February 04, 2012 at 01:47 AM
No bob I am not confusing legal and social sanctions. I am talking about employment sanctions. if after an investigation the Park Service finds that the Ranger did wrong they can punish. Also if the District Attorney believes any laws have been broken he can file charges. There has already been a call for an investigation by the Park Service into the actions of the Ranger. Let the process run its course bob.
no one February 04, 2012 at 01:57 AM
The ranger has been identified by witnesses in both instances as Sarah Cavallaro
bob g February 04, 2012 at 02:38 AM
Bruce. The process will certainly run it's course. And public outrage is a proper part of that process. For instance, it may influence whether the process is transparent to the public or administratively buried or whether an investigation is internal or independent. And if more is discovered about this individual, it will likely not be because federal administrators offered it voluntarily. You just have too much unfounded confidence that "things will somehow be taken care of".
Bruce Hotchkiss February 04, 2012 at 02:46 AM
I believe in the system yes. So often we hear people say, "we live in the best nation in the world." Part of who we are as a nation is our justice system that says everyone is innocent until proven guilty. I do not happen to believe the system is perfect, far from it, but I do believe that it is the best we have and to discard it, or to treat people as guilty without due process is wrong. If that makes me a bad person, so be it.
Bob G February 04, 2012 at 05:16 AM
Bruce H. I don't think you're a bad person. And I have much faith in the legal system. And in the legal system everyone is not guilty until proved otherwise. But I never suggested that this person should be charged with a crime and so I'm not sure the legal system is the proper venue. The legal system is part of a larger and more complex social structure that is much more "organic" that the legal system. That is where this issue will likely be decided. (Login name changed slightly..lost my password)
Anna B February 04, 2012 at 05:50 AM
Julianna Wahlmeier thank you for a very informative and well written response to the GGNRA. I am disgusted with the NPS in general, for their polices on dogs in parks ... the standard for environmental management these days (having worked in the field for 25 years) is "zoning" of multiple uses in protected areas. The park service unfortunately bows to wealth in allowing uses ... snow mobiles, atvs, horses, sure .... dogs setting foot in the backcountry ... certainly not! The GGNRA specifically needs to be gutted due to its continual underhanded sneaky attacks on dog walking. This ranger and the lead supervisor for the GGNRA should be fired. And the NPS needs to get the message that the parks are for ALL people, not just wealthy interest groups. And they are not just for people to look at - they are for people to use. I'm sure most of the taser lovers here never get off the couch, so they should not even be included in the discussion!
Steve Sinai February 05, 2012 at 01:24 AM
While I think the dog-leash laws are idiotic, if you feel that being stopped by a law enforcement officer is inconvenient, and decide to lie about your identity and walk away, you deserve to suffer the consequences. The guy didn't get tased for having dogs off leash. He got tased for refusing to follow the orders of a law enforcement officer.
hutch February 05, 2012 at 02:18 AM
That's too logical Steve. It's easier to blame the pig.
Charles Dodgson February 05, 2012 at 11:29 PM
60 Minutes had a segment that discussed the numerous incidents of death caused by officers who misuse tasers. It's a question of proportional response. I think most of the Occupy crowd is ridiculous, but that doesn't mean that cop in Davis should have pepper-sprayed everyone in the face. If she didn't have a taser, would it have been okay for her to shoot him? Maybe if she just aimed for the leg?
Annette May 07, 2012 at 04:05 AM
yea thank god pacifica pd didnt showup your dog would of morphed into a pitbull and got shot "DEAD".
Bonnie Hannum June 21, 2012 at 06:17 AM
Bhatman, seriously?! What nonsense you spew. "Potentially dangerous to the officer??" HOW could there be anything dangerous assumed about a person walking AWAY from her. WALKING, not running! Obviously you don't value your civil rights.
Bonnie Hannum June 21, 2012 at 06:29 AM
Well said, Dogbert! Ditto, here. And I come from a law enforcement family, so I'm not cop hater or disobedient citizen, either. We are in grave danger of losing our civil liberties unless people speak up for the rights of Joe Civillian. Peeps need to read the history of how Hitler forced civillians into submission.... starting with these same tactics of "Don't question authority." I, for one, will question it every time it oversteps the bounds!
Bonnie Hannum June 21, 2012 at 06:58 AM
BINGO, Roger!!! I have always respected the law, but I do not follow it blindly. There are bad enforcement authorities across this country that over-step their bounds with their arrogant assessment that they are the be-all and end all in their attempts to control. This is why we have laws to protect our civil liberties. If a law enforcement officer attempts to use force on a civillian that has no weapon, is not aggressively threatening or menacing, then they should also suffer the consequences of their actions. They are NOT above the law themselves.
joda August 17, 2012 at 08:26 AM
The ranger's name is Sarah Cavallaro and she was the subject of a similar complaint on Sweeney Ridge.
hutch August 31, 2012 at 08:09 PM
Wow HMB 1233, I'm glad you're so peace-loving. This user should be permanently banned for divulging a personal phone number and vicious personal attack.

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