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GGNRA exonerates ranger, drops charges in Taser incident

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Posted: Monday, August 27, 2012 5:26 pm | Updated: 10:38 am, Thu Sep 13, 2012.

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.


Welcome to the discussion.


  • John Charles Ullom posted at 2:12 pm on Wed, Aug 29, 2012.

    John Charles Ullom Posts: 1050

    On top of this, did the officer say anything like "Stop or I will tase you?"

    According to multiple witnesses, yes, she did.

    To which the about to be tased guy replied, "Don't tase me, I have a heart condition."

    Then the guy who had been warned and had proclaimed his condition, tried to leave.

    Hesterberg motioned to leave a second time, and the ranger unholstered her Taser and warned him she would use it. He asked her not to shoot, saying he had a heart condition that could be fatal if he was shocked. That’s when he turned his back to the ranger, apparently to walk away. --

    Notice that all of that is confirmed by folks who were sympathetic to the plight of the fool who proclaimed he had a heart condition and then tried to leave when a cop had told him he would be tased if he did.

    If the off leash dog walker had been a Black Kid with a bottle of beer, nobody around here would be defending such an idiot. In fact they would be applauding the officer for standing her ground. Just like am now.

  • DavidV posted at 12:18 pm on Wed, Aug 29, 2012.

    DavidV Posts: 52

    "When confronted by the law, do not try to walk away. There is no excuse for not cooperating."

    I'm no expert in these things, but as a rule-of-thumb, I thought that being read one's Miranda rights (e.g. being placed into custody) was the point after which one was no longer free to leave.

    Obviously, the best practice would be to ask the officer, "Am I free to leave or am I under arrest," but absent that, unless Mr. Hesterberger was already being taken into custody - in which case one wonders why he wasn't handcuffed and Mirandized - it would seem he would in fact have been free to leave.

    On top of this, did the officer say anything like "Stop or I will tase you?" indicating a direct order with consequences? Anything short of a direct order stated very specifically could cause one to assume that a voluntary request for compliance was being made as opposed to a direct order.

    My $0.02

    -- DavidV

  • John Gruver posted at 8:56 am on Wed, Aug 29, 2012.

    John Gruver Posts: 122

    "When confronted by the law, do not try to walk away. There is no excuse for not cooperating."


  • BigPumpkin posted at 4:47 pm on Tue, Aug 28, 2012.

    BigPumpkin Posts: 145

    Explain to me again the difference between "terrorists" and the tendency of federal agencies to tase, assault, rape, mame, torture and kill... Because it's becoming a very blurry line.

    Please treat other people with respect and dignity. Otherwise this whole America thing doesn't work.

  • John Charles Ullom posted at 3:14 pm on Tue, Aug 28, 2012.

    John Charles Ullom Posts: 1050

    When confronted by the law, do not try to walk away. There is no excuse for not cooperating.

    But, what the hell is the Park Service up to? Why not release the report? Something smells like dog poop.

    In the end, all involved look foolish. At least nobody will be able to pretend they didn't know the rules and that if you decide to walk away from a cop that has detained you, Jacki Speier has your back.

  • Tyler Durden posted at 2:46 pm on Tue, Aug 28, 2012.

    Tyler Durden Posts: 412

    State senators should be spending their time trying figure out ways to fix the state's budget disaster --not grandstanding to protect some local yocal who thinks he and his dog are above the law.

  • HoneyBadger posted at 9:48 am on Tue, Aug 28, 2012.

    HoneyBadger Posts: 29

    That ranger shouldn't have a taser or interact with the public.

  • mysafetydefense posted at 7:44 am on Tue, Aug 28, 2012.

    mysafetydefense Posts: 1

    This Ranger should not haved used his taser


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