Advertisement
Motherboard

A National Parks Service Ranger Tased a Man Flying a 3-Inch Toy Helicopter

"Why the hell did you shoot me with a stun gun because I flew a remote controlled helicopter?"

by Jason Koebler
Apr 28 2015, 6:53pm

​Image: Author

​People flying drones have been assaulted, they've had their footage taken and destroyed, and, now, they've been tased.

Last weekend, a man flying a three-inch plastic drone was tased and arrested by a US park ranger at Hawaii's Volcanoes National Park. The man had apparently been flying the drone to videotape the park's rising lava lake.

According to Hawaii Now News (​video here), Travis Sanders was unaware that flying drones is prohibited in the National Parks System. He said a ranger there angrily approached him and he simply wanted to leave, so he started to walk away from the ranger.

"Why the hell did you shoot me with a stun gun because I flew a remote controlled helicopter?"

"He sounded very angry, confrontational, like he wanted to fight, and I didn't want to stick around for it," he told the station. "I told him I don't have ID, and I'm leaving."

A spokesperson for the park, Jessica Ferracane, told the station that rangers said Sanders was "very unpredictable and unruly," so that's why he was tased. A video shot by a bystander showed the aftermath of the event:

"Why the hell did you run?" a ranger asked Sanders.

"Why the hell did you shoot me with a stun gun because I flew a remote controlled helicopter?" he responded.

That's a good question. I've reached out to Sanders and Ferracane multiple times to hear more about what they have to say, but haven't heard back yet. Witnesses told Hawaii News Now that the ranger's reaction seemed uncalled for and excessive.

In fact, legally, it's not a tasable offense. And the NPS should have that drilled into their collective heads by now.

Ignorance of the law isn't an outright excuse, but the National Parks Service has done a dismal job of actually informing people about its drone ban, which it implemented last summer after a few drone crashes at national parks. Few parks actually have signage prohibiting drones, and flying a toy seems more like a ticketable offense, not a tasable one.

In fact, legally, it's not a tasable offense. And the NPS should have that drilled into their collective heads by now.

In 2012, a national park ranger named Sarah Cavallaro ​attempted to arrest Gary Hesterberg for walking his dog without a leash at California's Golden Gate National Recreation Area. According to an appeals court decision, the Hesterberg "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. Cavallaro did not give any verbal warning just before tasing Hesterberg, though she did order him to stop."

All charges were dropped against Hesterberg, and he was awarded $50,000 because of the use of excessive force against him.

In that case, the judge threw out the testimony of Hunter Bailey, the NPS's deputy chief of law enforcement, because it "revealed a startling lack of awareness of the law and its application to use of force scenarios."

In other words, the man in charge of telling rangers when they can lawfully use tasers has no idea what the law actually is. In both California and Hawaii, a police tasing is not legal (under a Ninth Circuit Appeals Court decision) unless a suspect is showing "active resistance" to a police officer.

There have been more than 500 people killed as a result of police taser use since 2001, according to Amnesty International. Choosing to use one is not a frivolous decision to be taken against people who are walking their jack russell terriers peacefully off leash. It's not something that should be done to someone who is playing with a toy. Witnesses in both cases say they weren't bothering anyone. So how and why did they both end up getting electrocuted by law enforcement