A man walking his two lap dogs off-leash in an area that had been off-leash for years until December ended up at the wrong end of a stun gun because of his walkies. Yes, a stun gun, with a high-voltage shock that can immobilize you and scare the pants off you. Yes, for walking his dogs off-leash.
Actually it was for the offense of giving a park ranger a wrong name after telling her he didn’t have his ID. She told him to stay put, and she didn’t tell him why after he asked numerous times, witnesses say.
So he walked away. And she deployed her weapon.
“It was really scary,” witness Michelle Babcock told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I just felt so bad for him.”
Paramedics came (stun guns can have deleterious side effects, such as death), and so did county sheriffs, and Gary Hesterberg gave his real name. He was arrested on suspicion of failing to obey a lawful order, having dogs off-leash, and knowingly providing false information, the Chronicle reports. Then he was released.
This is just SO not okay. The ranger’s name was not released, but a Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) spokesman said that she was trying to educate the public on the new leash law.
Educating the public with electric shock? Really? Educating via posters or warning citations, fine. But a stun gun? No way.
Rancho Corral de Tierra, in Montara, Calif., had been a great place for off-leash romps for years. Then the GGNRA took over last month, and leashes became the law. Not everyone knows this. And even if they do, it’s really hard to get used to restrictive rules.
I should know. I live two blocks from a San Francisco beach that’s overseen by the GGNRA. It used to be off-leash for well-behaved dogs year-round. It’s not like that anymore. On Christmas Day, a ranger was earning the GGNRA thousands of dollars ticketing people enjoying some leash-free romps with really good dogs. Merry Christmas! Tickets are $100. I speak from personal experience. Grrrr …
At least people didn’t get the stun-gun treatment as part of the holiday ticket package. This kind of force is a tremendous abuse of power, and I hope GGNRA takes a serious look at this ranger’s actions. The scenery around here is stunning enough. We don’t need electric force to make the walks any more stunning …
Update Feb 1: According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Rep. Nancy Pelosi is calling for an inquiry of the incident, “Many of my constituents are understandably angered by what appears to be an excessive use of force by a park ranger,” she said. Here’s an article with updated information from both “sides.” And another with an eyewitness account that says the ranger was very rude and did not care when the man said he had a heart condition before she zapped him (after he leashed his 13-pound rat terrier). And see a comment from Skip, below, with an apparent eyewitness account of the incident.