Ranger uses stun gun on man walking dogs off-leash

Posted Jan. 31, 2012, at 8:17 p.m.

MONTARA, Calif. — A man walking his dogs in a federal park overlooking the Pacific Ocean was hit with a stun gun and arrested by a park ranger who accused him of not tethering the animals, astonishing passers-by who say the reaction was excessive.

The ranger deployed the stun gun on Gary Hesterberg after he gave a false name and then tried to walk away from the encounter Sunday, the National Park Service said. Hesterberg was allegedly walking his dogs without leashes in violation of the rules of Rancho Corral de Tierra, which was recently incorporated into the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

A witness, Michelle Babcock, told the San Francisco Chronicle the ranger never gave Hesterberg an explanation as to why he was being detained and then hit him with the stun gun in the back.

“He just tried to walk away,” Babcock said. “She never gave him a reason. … It didn’t make any sense.”

Calls to the park service and a listing for Hesterberg were not immediately returned Tuesday. No one answered the door at Hesterberg’s home in Montara, a coastal community in San Mateo County with about 3,000 residents.

A neighbor, Judith Rosenberg, said she heard about the incident from a woman who claimed to have witnessed it. Rosenberg, who was walking her own dog when she found out, said she complained in an email to federal park officials.

“I was very concerned they are Tasering people just for not having their dogs on a leash,” said the 55-year-old. “It just seems really excessive.”

Rosenberg said the chief ranger for the recreational area replied with some details of the incident. In the response, which she shared with The Associated Press, Kevin Cochary said Hesterberg was “not compliant, tried to run away and lied to the investigating ranger about his name.”

“We will look into this matter in depth,” Cochary wrote.

Hesterberg was arrested on suspicion of failing to obey a lawful order, having dogs off-leash and knowingly providing false information, Howard Levitt, a spokesman for the park service, told the Chronicle.

Levitt said the ranger asked Hesterberg to remain at the scene, and he repeatedly tried to leave. The unidentified ranger was able to stop him after deploying the stun gun, Levitt said.

The ranger was trying to educate residents about the leash requirement, he said. The recreation area has proposed tougher rules for dog walkers, including requiring leashes in open spaces where dogs currently roam untethered and closing some popular dog-walking areas to canines.

Park service officials and environmentalists said they want to protect some 1,200 native plant and animal species, including the Snowy Plover, a federally endangered shorebird.

Information from: San Francisco Chronicle, http://www.sfgate.com

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