View of Rancho Corral de Tierra (GGNRA)

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From the Chronicle yesterday:

A Montara man walking two lapdogs off leash was hit with an electric-shock gun by a National Park Service ranger after allegedly giving a false name and trying to walk away, authorities said Monday.

The park ranger encountered Gary Hesterberg with his two small dogs Sunday afternoon at Rancho Corral de Tierra, which was recently incorporated into the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, said Howard Levitt, a spokesman for the park service. Full story

KQED’s Amy Standen today interviewed John Bartlett, an eyewitness to the incident. Here’s an edited transcript:

What happened?

Well I think I came toward the end of what happened. It was getting to a point where he was getting a little irritable. From what I’ve heard since, she hadn’t given him a ticket. He said something about ‘are you going to arrest me,’ something like that, and the next thing I heard was a shot and a scream of agony from him as he fell on his back. He seemed to be out for two or three minutes.


He didn’t respond at all to what she was saying to him, ‘get over on your stomach,’ because she wanted to handcuff him. She finally did handcuff him.

Then about at that time, some other law enforcement people came. At some point he managed to talk to us, there were three of us watching, me and two bystanders who had been there before me. He managed to shout to us, ‘please take my dogs,’ he didn’t want  them to go with the enforcement people. I moved fowrard to do that, and the ranger said, ‘stand back,’ so i backed off; I knew she was armed.

And then when these other enforcement people came, one of them who was a woman came over with the dogs and handed them to the other two bystanders, a young couple. And that is where I made my exit.

You’re sort of shaking your head like this rattled you…

It did rattle me. I’ve never seen anything like it. I’m 77 years old, never had such an emotional reaction to something. I didn’t know if the guy was dying. For a leash on a dog…

The park people say the reason she tasered him is because he was resisting apprehension. She kept asking him to stop and he kept not stopping. Do you have any sense of that?

He was not moving in her direction at all, he was moving away.

Did it strike you as an excessive use of force?

Extremely. Yeah.

Another eyewitness is heard from in this Half Moon Bay Review account:

Witnesses say Hesterberg was told to wait while the ranger communicated on her radio. He repeatedly asked her why she was detaining him and if he was being cited. After a few minutes, he announced he was leaving and began to walk away, and the ranger grabbed him by the arm and ordered him again to stay put.

“We felt like he wasn’t doing anything,” observed Michelle Babcock, who witnessed the event while walking that afternoon. “The ranger was very rude — you could tell (the dog walker) wanted to be on his way, but she kept saying no.”

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.

Perhaps the larger story here is the proposed GGNRA dog policy plan, which was the subject of much growling on all sides last year. GGNRA is exempt from the National Park Service policy that requires dogs to be walked on leashes, but it is now considering, as part of a long history of attempts at modifying the policy, expanding the number of leash-only areas. Dog owners are adamantly opposed to this, but bird watchers and other recreational constituencies support the change.

When Rancho Corral de Tierra was incorporated into GGNRA, a leash-only policy was instituted, which brings the undeveloped parcel of land in line with other national parks but makes it an anomaly within GGNRA. Previously, leashes were not required at Rancho Corral de Tierra, though park officials say they may eventually allow off-leash walking in some areas.

The taser incident is not going to help the GGNRA’s already poor image among dog walkers. From the Half Moon Bay Review:

Within a matter of hours, the Taser incident generated cries of foul play among the close-knit dog-walking community in Montara. GGNRA took control of the Rancho Corral property in December, and some dog advocates fear the agency will fully prohibit dog walking.

“There is total outrage about this. Everyone thinks this is a total excessive use of force,” said Bill Bechtell, who runs the Montara Dog Blog and email group. “Tasers should only be used in self-defense. This guy was walking away and got Tasered in the back.”

Bechtell pointed out that the Rancho Corral property had no signs posted to warn dog walkers to use leashes. He wondered if every dog owner walking through the park will now be accosted by a ranger.

GGNRA officials say they meant to have rangers out at Rancho Corral mainly to educate the public on the new dog-leash rules. GGNRA has been trying to cultivate goodwill among the local community, Levitt said, but the Taser incident will probably take time to overcome.

GGNRA is currently looking over the copious public comments to its dog proposal. The plan, whatever it ends up being, will not be implemented until at least the end of 2013.

Interview: Eyewitness to Dog-Walking Taser Incident at GGNRA 1 February,2012Jon Brooks

  • Ameliasdogwalking

    I think that tasing should be illegal. I cant imagine any of my dogs that I walk getting tased, they’re so sweet, just look at them. you can see them here. 

  • Ducksweb

    Crazy ranger on a “power trip” – disarm her – she could have killed this guy – disarm her – give her a desk job better yet fire her – this ranger is a nutter 

  • Ducks

    From Half Moon Bay Review (
    A National Parks Service ranger who used a Taser against a Montara resident earlier this week was the subject of a previous complaint from a Coastside dog walker.
    The ranger has been identified by witnesses in both instances as Sarah Cavallaro, and both instances concerned people walking dogs off-leash.

    Coastside resident Larry De Young said on Wednesday the Taser incident earlier this week reminded him of a similar episode he experienced nearly two years earlier. At the time, De Young was with his wife walking their two springer spaniels at Sweeny Ridge near Pacifica when Cavallaro drove up and ordered him to keep the dogs away.
    De Young leashed the dogs and Cavallaro asked both of them for identification.
    “I told her she was acting like this was a felony arrest and I did not appreciate being treated like a criminal,” De Young explained in an April 5, 2010 email to a National Parks Service official. “To which she replied that I was a criminal.”

  • Anonymous

    This land has been enjoyed for more than 50 years by
    birders, hikers with dogs, hikers without dogs, horseback riders, mountain
    bikers and anyone who wants to enjoy the beauty and majesty of this magnificent
    land overlooking the Pacific Ocean. 
    All of that serenity was destroyed by an unwarranted taser assault and
    by an arrogant GGNRA. This assault came almost the instant they had gained
    legal jurisdiction.  Word went out
    immediately in our community that another person had been very badly treated by
    a female GGNRA Ranger up on Sweeney Ridge.  Turns out it was the same rogue ranger.

    I imagine many others have received similar treatment, since
    we know Mr. Hesterberg is not the only person who has experienced her wrath.



    GGNRA you work for us. 
    We are not the enemy.  We
    are the ones that are paying for the land so that we can recreate.  My neighbor has coined the term Golden
    Gate National Rifle Association to describe the wild west atmosphere you have
    brought to our peaceful town.  Our
    federal government spent 15 million BORROWED dollars to buy this land from
    Peninsula Open Space Trust.  Even
    though the coffers are dry at the county, state and federal level we persist in
    creating still more brand new government bureaucracy.  This GGNRA takeover is surrounded by an existing state park:
    McNee Ranch.  In fact Mr.
    Hesterberg was tased a stone’s throw from the State Rangers House.


    Why are you here GGNRA?  This land does not need you.  It never needed to become another cog in the federal
    bureaucracy. GGNRA has only brought fear and notoriety to our community.  You have a highly adversarial
    relationship with you boss—the taxpayer. 
    On your own website a main feature is how to initiate a FOIA
    request.  Why?  Because you have a long-standing
    litigious relationship with us, the taxpayer.  You are using our money to litigate against us.  You have a ranger who has brought a bad
    name to all the good and brave rangers out there.  You have a spokesperson who claimed tasering him was
    reasonable.  Yet newspapers from
    London to New Zealand to Shanghai ran the story because it is so incredible and
    mind-boggling.  I bet the only time
    you have ever gotten global coverage is for this heinous act.   I ask again why are you
    here?  Please give the land back to
    POST who has never threatened or tasered anyone.


    Here is a summary of the Federal Court of Appeals Ruling on
    the use of tasers from the Los Angles times 2009:


    A federal appeals court this week ruled that a
    California police officer can be held liable for injuries suffered by an unarmed
    man he Tasered during a traffic stop. The decision, if allowed to stand, would
    set a rigorous legal precedent for when police are permitted to use the weapons
    and would force some law enforcement agencies throughout the state — and
    presumably the nation — to tighten their policies Taser use, experts said.

    Michael Gennaco, an expert in police conduct issues who has
    conducted internal reviews of Taser use for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s
    Department and other agencies, said the ruling by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of
    Appeals prohibits officers from deploying Tasers in a host of scenarios and
    largely limits their use to situations in which a person poses an obvious danger.


  • Ducks

    Sandra Cavallaro “power ranger” likes her taser – see third paragraph below

    From the NPS Morning Report, July
    29, 2010 

    Gate National Recreation Area (CA)
    Rangers Intercede In Parking Lot

    On the evening of Sunday, July 19th, rangers
    on patrol at Stinson Beach heard a call on the
    Marin County radio reporting a
    fight in progress involving two groups with baseball bats in the south parking
    lot. Ranger Sarah Cavallaro responded from the lifeguard tower and witnesses
    directed her to a sedan that was being driven out of the parking lot. Cavallaro
    conducted a traffic stop and was backed by a Marin County deputy.

    The driver of the sedan had blood on his
    face and said that he had been hit in the back of the head with a baseball bat;
    he in turn punched another male from the other group in the face with the
    assumption that he was the subject who hit him with the bat. The deputy stayed
    with the driver and occupants of the van while Cavallaro went to the south lot
    to meet with supervisory ranger Pat Norton and medics to determine what
    precipitated the fight.

    group in the south lot was highly agitated, uncooperative and verbally abusive
    to rangers. One member of the group was so uncooperative that Cavallaro advised
    him he would be tasered if he did not respond to commands to sit down. It was determined that the fight started over inappropriate
    comments made towards one of the young women in the sedan….


  • Ducks

    July 2010GOLDEN GATE NATIONAL RECREATION AREASuicide Victim Found Below Muir Beach OverlookWhile closing up the Muir Beach overlook parking lot on the evening of June 29th, ranger Sarah Cavallaro came upon an unoccupied vehicle that had been locked in the previous night. Cavallaro searched the area in an effort to find the owner. After checking the trails and associated military bunkers, she went back to the vehicle and asked park dispatch to run the registered owner’s name. The name came back as a missing person and Cavallaro also learned that the owner had attempted to purchase a handgun in Daly City the previous day. Supervisory ranger Pat Norton had Cavallaro open the vehicle; when she did so, she found a handwritten note that had been notarized, alluding to a possible suicide. Additional rangers and a United States Park Police canine officer arrived and continued to search the immediate area while a helicopter flew to the area to assist in the search. The dog led the rangers and officer to the end of the overlook, but the helicopter was unable to locate anyone in the area. The search continued until midnight. At approximately 6 a.m., members of the Marin County Search and Rescue Team and rangers began a search of the trails, cliff sides and the ocean waters below. Lifeguards launched a personal watercraft around 9:30 a.m. and began searching the water and coastline. Within an hour, they’d found a man’s body face down on the jagged rock outcroppings approximately 850 feet below the end of the overlook. Park lifeguards and the Marin SAR team recovered the body. A detective from the U.S. Park Police criminal investigations branch is working with the coroner’s office to positively identify the victim.Contact InformationName: Kim Coast, Acting Chief Ranger

  • Ducks

    Sarah (“Sara”)  Cavallaro used the taser for a “spark display” in an incident Sept 2004 in Yellowstone National Park (

  • Ducks
  • Anonymous

    I’m not sure that false identification is going to stick because of the way this park ranger handled it.  Any competent attorney is going to tear through that charge easily.  Here’s the relevant law:

    “148.9. (a) Any person who falsely represents or identifies himself
    or herself as another person or as a fictitious person to any peace
    officer listed in Section 830.1 or 830.2, or subdivision (a) of
    Section 830.33, upon a lawful detention or arrest of the person,
    either to evade the process of the court, or to evade the proper
    identification of the person by the investigating officer is guilty
    of a misdemeanor.
    (b) Any person who falsely represents or identifies himself or
    herself as another person or as a fictitious person to any other
    peace officer defined in Chapter 4.5 (commencing with Section 830) of
    Title 3 of Part 2, upon lawful detention or arrest of the person,
    either to evade the process of the court, or to evade the proper
    identification of the person by the arresting officer is guilty of a
    misdemeanor if (1) the false information is given while the peace
    officer is engaged in the performance of his or her duties as a peace
    officer and (2) the person providing the false information knows or
    should have known that the person receiving the information is a
    peace officer.”

    First of all, section (a) doesn’t apply because 830.1 describes local police and sheriff’s departments and 830.2 describes state law enforcement agencies (CHP, UCPD, Fish & Game, etc.). Federal law enforcement is described by 830.8, with specific note that one is not a peace officer, although one can exercise the arrest powers of a peace officer.

    The NPS spokesman has said this was an educational outreach effort. They ask names routinely. All accounts were that he’d leashed his dogs immediately and wasn’t being cited or detained. In addition to that, apparently she went power-tripping without even informing him if he was going to be cited, arrested, or detained.It doesn’t sound to me as if he gave this fake name as a consequence of an arrest or a lawful detention. This was an educational outreach effort that could be performed by rangers without law enforcement duties or even by park volunteers. She’s apparently the one who turned this into a law enforcement issue. He probably shouldn’t have given any name, but it sounds like a stretch to say that she was asking his name in any capacity as a peace officer.

  • Pro-NPS Dogowner

    #1: There is not one comment here that addresses the actual incident, just a lot of peripheral issues being raised about the land, NPS and other political topics. Past incidents are mentioned about Ranger Cavallaro that are neither relevant or complete in their depictions.

    #2:  The defendant did not simply get tased for walking his dogs. The implication that this is true is both erroneous and irresponsible. He was doing something illegal–walking his dogs off leash. The size of the dogs is irrelevant. That’s like saying one should not receive a speeding ticket if the car they’re driving is a compact. His claim of a pre-existing health condition is also irrelevant. If you’re in poor health, perhaps it makes even more sense to cooperate with a law enforcement officer when you’re caught doing something illegal. The ranger gave him at least three verbal warnings not to walk away. And yes, she authorized to enforce state and local laws in CA while on duty: CA Penal Code 830.8 specifies this. Would anyone on this forum drive away from a traffic stop before the officer is done? This is no different. An citation is issued as an alternative to booking a violator into jail. It is a promise to appear in court. The trail is not a court. The defendant could have taken the citation and chosen to contest it, but he made a decision to not comply and this is what happened.

    #3: For everyone claiming this was “excessive force”, perhaps you should educate yourselves on the topic before being vocal about it. The entire point of the Tazer, or “Electronic Control Device (ECD)” and other similar devices is to AVOID putting hands on a suspect. When officers put their hands on suspects, the officer is using force. Walking away is an aggressive tactic because it forces the officer to go hands-on to stop the person from fleeing the contact. Additionally, this brings the already uncooperative suspect in closer proximity to your duty belt. Why would you want an agitated, uncooperative and aggressive subject near all of your defensive weapons, where he/she can access them so much easier?

    In this case the defendant wants everyone to believe he is a victim. Nonsense. Anyone with an IQ over 20 and a shred of common sense knows not to walk away from an officer/ranger when detained for an offense, no matter how small and/or insignificant that offense may appear on the surface. Officer injuries have gone down significantly since the invention and implementation of the ECD. Why? Fewer wrestling matches with aggressive subjects. It’s not rocket science but it is common sense, so this will no doubt escape the comprehension of the majority of persons posting comments here and on other forums.

    #4: Contrary to common belief and public opinion, dogs off leash present one of the greatest officer safety risks to National Park Rangers in terms of law enforcement contacts. There are a population of dog owners who lose their minds if even questioned as to their conduct/behavior, let alone contacted by law enforcement. And most of the time it’s not the dog who present the danger, it’s the owners. Oh yeah, then there’s the dogs. They have attacked other hikers, horses, attacked other wildlife, leave feces and urine off-trail that ultimately unbalances the ecosystem of the parks. When other predators and non-predatory species pick up the scent of a dog, they are not concerned with the size of the dog, only that the dog is a predator. Simple fix: Leash your dogs where they are allowed and leave them home when they are not. Common sense. You are not entitled, you are not special, you are not exempt.

    Congratulations to Ranger Cavallaro for affecting this arrest without serious injury to herself. Hold your head up high and learn from this. Remember, everyone has an opinion. In the end you went home alive and in the same physical condition in which you began your shift.

  • Respondfair

    The federal parks have different use of force policy than the local sheriffs whose taser use of force is more restrictive within the legal confines of state and county’s taser use policy. However, the NPS policy allows more discretionary use.

    Is the dog walkers name Hesterberg or, Hestleberg? Sherry Hestleberg is a protester against the use of tasers. If there is a spelling error in one of these two names?

  • Respondfair

    Taser international spokesperson, Steve Tuttle says about taser research: it confirms what we’ve been telling the public since day one….that taser technology is a safer alternative for use of force for law enforcement…there is nothing risk free during a law enforcement encounter with the use of force…the devices are a safer alternative to injuries that might result from a nightstick or police dog bite. — American College of Emergency Physicians Research Forum, Seattle, WA

    Taser debate flares after taser study, 2007. Anti taser groups want moratorium on taser use (New Zealand)

    The park service use of force

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