The Golden Gate National Recreation Area has exonerated its ranger and dropped charges against a Montara dog-walker after an infamous encounter on the Midcoast earlier this year. The National Park Service has declined to release its report on the controversial use of a Taser to subdue a man whose original crime was walking unleashed dogs, but U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier broke the news in a press release issued Monday.
The congresswoman accused the National Park Service of ignoring its obligation to be transparent with the public by declining to answer basic questions about the Taser incident. The incident occurred more than six months ago at the Rancho Corral de Tierra property, but the story remains fresh in the minds of many Coastside residents, particularly among the close-knit dog-walking community.
The event at the center of the controversy unfolded at the Rancho Corral property on Jan. 29, when a GGNRA ranger stopped Montara resident Gary Hesterberg for walking one of his dogs off-leash. He complied by clipping a leash on his dog, but the encounter became argumentative after the ranger refused to let him go.
Hesterberg tried to walk away twice, according to witnesses. The second time he tried to leave the ranger unholstered her Taser and warned him she would use it. He turned his back to her, and she fired. He reportedly collapsed to the ground was later arrested and taken to jail and charged with three misdemeanors.
In the following days, a groundswell of critics denounced use of a Taser as an example of excessive force. However, officials with the National Park Service said the Taser was warranted.
A division of the U.S. Department of the Interior investigated the incident and completed its report in April. That report was initially to be released to the public, but National Park officials decided to withhold it, saying the document could remain confidential under federal law.
GGNRA Superintendent Frank Dean informed Speier’s office in a June letter that the investigation had exonerated ranger Sarah Cavallaro. The agency also later indicated it would not press any charges against Hesterberg, according to the release.
In the release, Speier fired a broadside against the National Parks officials for how they managed the incident.
“NPS owes it to the public to be upfront and honest about the results of the investigation and its Taser usage policy moving forward,” she wrote. “As it stands, the current NPS policy is overly broad, flawed and allows rangers far too much discretion as to when they can use Tasers.”
Speier said she would try to attend a scheduled community meeting organized to discuss dog-related issues in the park. That meeting is tentatively scheduled for 7 p.m., Sept. 10, at Farallone View Elementary School, 1100 LeConte Ave., Montara.