Electroshock Education

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Man gets the stun gun treatment for walking his dogs off-leash.

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.

Hesterberg, who said he didn’t have identification with him, allegedly gave the ranger a false name, Levitt said.

The ranger, who wasn’t identified, asked Hesterberg to remain at the scene, Levitt said. He tried several times to leave, and finally the ranger “pursued him a little bit and she did deploy her” electric-shock weapon, Levitt said. “That did stop him.” . . .

Witnesses said the use of a stun gun and the arrest seemed excessive for someone walking two small dogs off leash.

“It was really scary,” said Michelle Babcock, who said she had seen the incident as she and her husband were walking their two border collies. “I just felt so bad for him.”

Babcock said Hesterberg had repeatedly asked the ranger why he was being detained. She didn’t answer him, Babcock said.

After shocking him, the ranger did at least call paramedics. Then she arrested him. The park only recently started requiring dogs to be on a leash. Apparently, the ranger was merely trying to provide the man a service.

The ranger was trying to educate residents of the rule, Levitt said.

Lesson learned, I guess. Note too that the ranger is the only person in the story not mentioned by name.

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71 Responses to “Electroshock Education”

  1. #1 |  MassHole | 


    “There are two off-leash dog parks in Nashville.”

    Those are appropriate places for your dog to be unleashed. I don’t think the poster at #47 or any other would argue with that, much less agree you should be tazed for doing so. He is right that many laws are necessary because most people tend to be self-absorbed and don’t take others into consideration. I’m surrounded by dog owners and unfortunately I have to scan the sidewalk ahead of me to avoid stepping in dog shit every day and repeatedly ask my condo-mates to refrain from turning our outdoor common area into a dog latrine.

    Regardless, the tasing seems to have been a response to the guy walking away, not his leash law infraction. I agree with you 100% that the tasing was way out of proportion to the situation and put the mans health at risk. The officer was in no danger and certainly had a myriad of solutions available to her over using the taser. It does sound to me that the poster at #42 feels the taser use was appropriate, and I’m with you in thinking that is absurd.

  2. #2 |  Woog | 

    Radley, thanks to countless articles like this one of yours, I gradually became aware that my perception of America, Land of the Free, Home of the Brave, did not meet the reality.

    You are, of course, absolutely correct about the cop worship being commonplace when there are in fact vicious criminals who wear badges and in some cases act in a manner in which they should indeed be shot dead before their acts of criminal violence can be completed (legal example: Bad Elk vs United States).

    In this case, your logic is again spot on regarding Tazers being “less-lethal”, meaning “occasionally lethal”, weapons and that the use of such an “occasionally lethal” weapon on a man for no other reason than possibly being in violation of a recently changed rule with no visible criminal intent nor actual victim is, indeed a very big problem in need of immediate correction.

    It will take a while to get through some of the thick-skulled readers out there, but it is possible as evidenced by myself.

  3. #3 |  Woog | 

    Additionally, the use of an “occasionally-lethal” weapon on a person for merely attempting to go about his business after an apparent disagreement over a trifle by any account is indeed an outrage.

    When a cop acts outside the scope of law, to include disproportionate force, such behavior is by definition criminal. The catch-all categories used to attempt to justify the criminal cop behavior after the fact (i.e. resisting arrest, failure to obey) does not negate criminal actions on the part of the cop regardless of what the cop shops want others to believe.

  4. #4 |  Radley Balko | 

    It’s so funny to watch libertarians get so worked up about something like a leash law.

    Go back and read again. No one is worked up over a leash law. People are worked up over the Tasing of a man who violated it.


  5. #5 |  marco73 | 

    The story really isn’t about dogs on leashes. It’s about using excessive force on a citizen over a civil infraction.
    If you walked past a trash can in that park, an instead threw your trash on the ground, you could get a civil citation for littering. If you don’t want to stand around and wait for the ranger to dig up her ticket book, and you started to leave the park, would a Tazing be a legitimate response from the ranger?
    In a civil society, the answer is NO. But in a Police State, the answer is Hell Yes.
    You already know the Park Service understands that this is a black mark, since they haven’t released the name of the ranger. If the Park Service really wanted to back up their ranger, they’d have already held a press conference and really pounded the table that this guy was a menace to society.
    A predicted follow up – charges will be dropped, and a an undisclosed financial settlement will be offered. The ranger will not have any disciplinary actions taken against her.

  6. #6 |  Les | 

    Yeah, suggesting that the first thing a cop should do is to use sometimes-lethal force when someone walks away from them is to display not only a fascinatingly limited degree of problem-solving skills, but also a bizarre authoritarian streak seen more in visitors of Free Republic or Democratic Underground.

  7. #7 |  Robert | 

    Ok, this is a serious question. What is the appropriate response to someone’s refusal to cooperate with an LEO over a minor infraction. I agree that using a “sometimes lethal” device is totally inappropriate, but I’m not sure what the alternative should be.

    I am uncomfortable with just saying they should be let go if they walk away, it doesn’t seem like refusal to cooperate with reasonable requests from an LEO means a freebie. (note: I’m not saying the ranger in this case was being reasonable).

  8. #8 |  Judas Peckerwood | 

    Wow, I’m stunned by how many commenters here think that the ranger acted appropriately. I’m used to that kind of badge-licking in most forums, but not here.

  9. #9 |  Miranda | 

    The whole Taser thing has gotten out of hand, best illustrated here by people who think the park ranger was acting appropriately. Tasers were sold to the public as an alternative to deadly force. They are supposed to be used in place of firearms. So, when evaluating when Tasers are appropriate, ask “would using a gun be appropriate in this situation?” If the answer is no, then most likely using a Taser is also inappropriate. Would the park ranger be justified in shooting this man? No? Then she’s not justified in Tasering him.

  10. #10 |  John Nance | 

    @Robert: “Ok, this is a serious question. What is the appropriate response to someone’s refusal to cooperate with an LEO over a minor infraction. I agree that using a “sometimes lethal” device is totally inappropriate, but I’m not sure what the alternative should be.”

    According to Radley, “It is okay, even appropriate sometimes, to just walk away.”

    There you have it, the libertarian’s solution to minor infractions that you don’t agree with — just walk away when they tell you to stop.

  11. #11 |  EBL | 

    There is nothing wrong with parks that have leash rules and ones that do not. The issue here was this guy arrested or not and is shooting him with a stun gun warranted under these circumstances. If he was not arrested, then she is flat out wrong and he should get a sizable settlement (and she reprimanded). If he was under arrest and fled, then is it justified to use a stun gun for minor infraction. I think the answer to that is no, it is not justified.

  12. #12 |  Radley Balko | 

    According to Radley, “It is okay, even appropriate sometimes, to just walk away.”

    There you have it, the libertarian’s solution to minor infractions that you don’t agree with — just walk away when they tell you to stop.

    I was referring to the law enforcement officer.

  13. #13 |  StrangeOne | 

    To summarize:

    – dog park recently changes rules.
    – guy doesn’t know rules.
    – guy doesn’t bring his wallet to just walk his dogs.
    – ranger informs him of violation.
    – demands ID and tries to detain him.
    – ranger refuses to tell guy if he is being detained or not.
    – guy walks off. (can’t blame him the whole thing is ridiculous)
    – ranger tazes him.
    – other park goers are horrified.
    – guy takes an ambulance ride.
    – ranger is covered for and everyone else is identified.

    Some people think this is appropriate because they personally dislike dogs off leashes. Some people think this is appropriate because walking away from an officer, even when they refuse to fully inform you of the situation or even if, or why, you are being detained is a dangerous activity. The fact that it’s only dangerous because cops can easily get away with psychotic violence consequence free, is completely lost on the badge-worshipers. The right of cops to beat you takes supremacy over any reasonable expectation of what activities justify a violent response.

    Fuck this stupid country, the petty tyrants in the citizenry deserve their police state. It’s a pity everyone else has to suffer through their bullshit, though.

  14. #14 |  jb | 

    #62 Balko

    I got that. However I think it isn’t in most (any) LEO’s make-up to shrug off being disregarded by an individual they have contacted, regardless of the infraction, crime or order (lawful or otherwise). Once authority has been exericesed there simply is no room for anything less than complete compliance. A scary situation in a world where park rangers carry tasers.

    I do pick up my own dog’s mess, even while walking on the horse trail, where all manner of horses, coyote, rabbits, birds, squirrels, cats, other dogs (and yes, mountain bikers!) do not.

  15. #15 |  Robert | 


    I think you need to go back and reread the comments. Despite many claims to the contrary, no one is saying that the use of the taser was justified. Dogs off of leashes are a side note. Annoying as they are, it does not mean the ranger was right, and no one has said so. (note, I went back through and reread, no one other than Chuchandra, who is either being silly, or stupid…)

    SO let’s agree, using a taser on someone for an offense which you would not be arrested for is unjustifiable and wrong.

    So, walking along, you litter in a park. An officer sees you, and is going to write you a ticket. You turn and walk away before they can give it to you.

    What should the officer do? Should you just be able to get out of a ticket by running away? That seems absurd. So what’s the alternative?

  16. #16 |  Les | 

    Robert, you follow the guy. You follow him to his car or his home and mail him his fine (increased, maybe even, for walking away). If you can’t follow him, you call in back up and they follow him. It’s less expensive than a lawsuit, but more importantly, it’s a rational, practical reaction to a non-violent refusal to acknowledge an extremely minor infraction.

  17. #17 |  Les | 

    There you have it, the libertarian’s solution to minor infractions that you don’t agree with — just walk away when they tell you to stop.

    There you have it. An anti-libertarian’s solution to disagreements on the proper role of government – misrepresent your opponent’s position.

  18. #18 |  StrangeOne | 

    What Les said, follow him to his car and get the license plate, or follow him to his home for the address if he is within walking distance. If he won’t respect a female ranger (a possibility) or she cant follow him; call in other cops to issue the citation or possibly defuse the situation the ranger created by escalating a confrontation over a freaking dog leash violation.

    But all that aside a very real possibility, one that far to many law enforcement “professionals” refuse to consider, is to just let it go. The only justification for a dog leash law is to prevent them from harassing or attacking people or destroying property. If the dogs weren’t doing those things, then there is no damn reason to arrest anyone. Just politely remind him of the new park policy and go about your day without electrocuting someone. Is that really such a complicated idea? That you don’t enforce these petty misdemeanor infractions with violence unless some actual harm is caused by violating them?

  19. #19 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    I was watching Megyn Kelly (like I do every day) and even FOX News thought this was a ridiculous use of force. So, I put on my pants and came up with about 100 ways a park ranger could handle this better.

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