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Tasered dog walker awarded $50,000


Remember that California man who was shot with a stun gun by a National Park Service ranger who stopped him for walking his dogs off leash?

Gary Hesterberg may not have been entirely in the right when he sassed the park ranger and refused to give her his name, but the ranger was definitely in the wrong when she zapped him with her stun gun when he tried to leave the scene, a federal judge has ruled.

Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley ruled that Ranger Sarah Cavallaro used unlawful and unreasonable force, and she awarded Hesterberg $50,000 in damages for physical and mental suffering, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The incident unfolded on the afternoon of Jan. 29, 2012, when Hesterberg, 50, of Montara took his two dogs on a hike in the Rancho Corral de Tierra open space. Both dogs — a beagle named Jack and a rat terrier named JoJo — had been there many times before, and often walked unleashed.

While the Rancho had always had rules that dogs be kept on-leash, they’d never been too heavily enforced.

But when the land was acquired by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the park service made plans to change that, and ranger Cavallaro had been assigned to start spreading the word that day that stricter enforcement was coming.

When Cavallaro stopped Hesterberg to talk to him about the new rules, the conversation grew heated. Hesterberg said in court that he gave the ranger a fake last name because he didn’t “want to be placed on some offending dog walker … list.”

Hesterberg questioned Cavallaro’s authority and told the ranger he was leaving. She pointed her stun gun at him and told him to stay put.

When Hesterburg turned to leave. Cavallaro fired, hitting him in the back and buttocks. He was arrested on suspicion of failing to obey a lawful order, keeping dogs off-leash and providing false information, but San Mateo County prosecutors declined to file charges.

In her ruling, the judge found that Hesterberg, though uncooperative, never posed an immediate threat to Cavallaro, and that the circumstances didn’t justify the ranger’s use of force.

(Photo: San Francisco Chronicle)


Comment from Miss Jan
Time October 13, 2014 at 3:45 pm

I guess I was hoping for two things: some sort of follow up on just why park rangers are allowed to use deadly force (and if so what kind of law enforcement training they must have so that this doesn’t happen again); two – whether the park ranger was prosecuted for what appears from local news reports to be only the most recent in a long documented string of inappropriate use of force and confrontational behavior (and why she still apparently has her job!!!). There is much more to this story than a simple award of pain-and-suffering damages and it has to do with the increasing militarization of any kind of authority – even “park ranger.”

Comment from Jen Brighton
Time October 14, 2014 at 2:00 pm

I remember this incident. Thanks for the update. I thought tasering the guy was a little much considering he was walking away and not going towards her to attack her. Good to know the judge felt the same. Kudos to people who serve in law enforcement, but it seems some just should not be in that position of authority with any sort of weapon.

Comment from Sarahkate
Time October 15, 2014 at 1:07 pm

Jen: park rangers are not law enforcement.

I understand park ranger Cavallaro did not lose her job over this – she definitely should have. They just transferred her to another park – info I have says she’s now at the Grand Canyon. Question is why on earth are “park rangers” carrying deadly weapons? Hesterberg had a heart condition, she could easily have killed him and there are widely documented news reports of people killed by tasers (did you know cop kills do not legally have to be formally reported? That’s why the only evidence of cops killing civilians continues to be in eyewitness and media reports).