ACADIA NATIONAL PARK — A supervising park ranger thought another ranger was “out of control” during an Aug. 18 confrontation on Day Mountain that resulted in fractured facial bones for a Seal Harbor man, according to internal park ranger reports about the incident.
Kevin Donnell, a supervising ranger who was one of several rangers who responded to the early morning incident, wrote in a handwritten report 10 days later that Ranger James Lyon was arguing with and yelling at Tim Wild just before Lyon forced Wild to the ground.
“I think Ranger Lyon was out of control when he pushed Wild,” Donnell wrote about his memories of the incident and of subsequent conversations about it that he had with other rangers. “Ranger Lyon was yelling in a loud tone, his words were fueling the atmosphere.”
More than 40 witness reports and ranger statements about the incident recently were provided to the Bangor Daily News by Wild’s attorney, Jon Holder of Bar Harbor. Holder said he told the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which had provided him with copies of the documents, that he intended to release the reports to the public.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office had copies of the documents because it was considering whether to pursue federal criminal charges against Wild and Katherine Junkert, both of whom work at the Jordan Pond House. The two were part of a group of approximately 40 Jordan Pond House workers who had gone on a nighttime hike to the top of Day Mountain, which is an annual late-summer tradition organized by and for the restaurant’s employees. Jordan Pond House is located in Acadia National Park near the village of Seal Harbor.
Last week, federal prosecutors decided not to pursue charges against either Wild or Junkert, according to Holder. Wild had been charged with disorderly conduct and interfering with agency functions. Junkert had been charged with disorderly conduct, failure to obey a lawful order, and being under the influence of alcohol in the park.
According to a copy of a motion to dismiss filed Oct. 7 by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in federal court in Bangor, prosecutors decided that “further prosecution of this matter is not in the best interest of the government.”
Joel Casey, assistant U.S. attorney in Bangor, said Tuesday that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has no further comment about the decision to drop the charges against Wild and Junkert.
Officials with Acadia National Park released a written statement Tuesday indicating they could not comment because a National Park Service investigation of the incident is still in progress and because the NPS Office of Professional Responsibility has not yet completed its report.
Donnell and Lyon have been on administrative duty since the incident occurred, Jill Hawk, the NPS regional chief ranger who is supervising the investigation, said last week.
Though the charges against Wild and Junkert are being dismissed, other citations issued as a result of the ranger response to the Day Mountain gathering were not dismissed, according to the statement. Five people were cited for possession of alcohol by a minor, two were cited for possession of a controlled substance, and one was cited for furnishing alcohol to a minor, the statement indicated. None of these charges has been contested and fines have been paid, it said.
Acadia National Park Deputy Superintendent Len Bobinchock on Tuesday directed other questions about the incident and subsequent reports to the NPS Northeast Regional Office in Philadelphia, which is conducting the internal NPS investigation. Attempts Monday and Tuesday to contact NPS law enforcement supervisors in the Philadelphia office about the Acadia ranger reports were unsuccessful.
In the days immediately after the incident, Acadia officials indicated that rangers went to Day Mountain after learning there might be a large gathering involving alcohol at the summit. People over the age of 21 are allowed to consume alcohol in many places in the park, including on Day Mountain, as long as they don’t become intoxicated, according to park rules that are posted on Acadia’s official Web site.
Wild claims Lyon assaulted him after he used profanity while verbally objecting to rough physical treatment that Junkert received from another ranger when the group was detained. Junkert was not injured during the incident.
Wild has said he was handcuffed and then knocked unconscious when Lyon threw him to the ground. He has documents from Mount Desert Island Hospital that support his assertion that four bones in his face were fractured during the incident. Wild has said that he had consumed one beer earlier in the evening but that he was not intoxicated when the incident occurred.
In a six-page report on the incident written by Lyon, he indicates that Wild had “become vocal and irritated” and “was making vulgar statements at Donnell” after Donnell placed Junkert in handcuffs. He said that Donnell told him to handcuff Wild, but that Wild tried to pull away from him after he handcuffed Wild’s left hand.
“I was worried Wild was going to spin on me and I would lose control of him,” Lyon wrote.
Lyon wrote that he forced Wild to the ground and then put Wild’s right hand in the handcuffs before he noticed Wild was unconscious. Later, after Wild had regained consciousness, he was taken by ambulance to Mount Desert Island Hospital in Bar Harbor, Lyon wrote.
In a typed report, completed on Aug. 23, Donnell wrote that Wild swung “his right arm around toward Ranger Lyon” as Lyon stood behind Wild to place him in handcuffs. Lyon forced Wild to the ground and then finished handcuffing him, he indicated. He did not indicate or suggest in the typed report that he thought Lyon did anything inappropriate.
In later handwritten reports, however, Donnell wrote that he could not tell if both of Wild’s hands had been placed in handcuffs before Lyon forced him to the ground. He wrote in the handwritten reports that Wild did not make an effort to break his fall before he struck the gravel carriage road face-first and was knocked unconscious.
Ranger Louis Jahrling, who was present during the incident, wrote in a separate report that he also was not sure if Wild was handcuffed when Lyon forced him to the ground.
“I saw Lyon swing his right leg into Wild’s right leg, in what appeared to be an attempt to get him to the ground,” Jahrling wrote. “Wild landed hard on the carriage road face-first. He did not break his fall with either hand.”
In his report, Jahrling did not characterize Lyon’s behavior or describe how it affected the situation.
In his initial typed report Donnell wrote that when he first arrived at the scene around 1:40 a.m., after Lyon and Jahrling had detained the group, it was clear to him that Lyon and Jahrling were outnumbered and were unable to maintain authoritative control over the hikers.
“My first impression of the scene was that it was utter chaos,” Donnell wrote.
Donnell indicated in the report that he was concerned that if members of the detained group continued to move about the scene freely, a ranger could get injured or that evidence of illegal activity such as underage drinking or marijuana smoking could be lost.
“I felt we had a dangerous situation on our hands as the group was operating like a mob,” Donnell wrote. “The group was overwhelming rangers Lyon and Jahrling by dividing their attention with verbal banter that was drawing their attention from managing the group as a whole.”
Holder, Wild’s attorney, said Tuesday that the reports exonerate his client from any wrongdoing or any responsibility in causing his own injuries. All of the witness reports submitted by other hikers indicate that Wild was not resisting arrest when he was injured, Holder said.
“He may have said something orally, but that’s not grounds for injury,” Holder said. “[The rangers] could have handled this whole thing very differently.”
Holder said the charges the rangers later served on Wild represent an attempt to cover up their own misconduct.
“They did that for the wrong reasons,” Holder said. “It’s quite clear the U.S. attorney knew [the charges] were bogus.”
Holder said his client still is considering whether to file suit against the National Park Service over his injuries. Last week, Wild said that his medical bills so far total between $4,000 and $5,000 and that he lost out on about $1,000 in potential income when his injuries caused him to miss a week of work after the incident.
Hawk said last week that when Donnell and Lyon might resume their active patrol and other law enforcement duties depends on the result of the investigation.
Hawk was on the road Tuesday and was not expected to be back in her Philadelphia office until Friday, according to the outgoing message on her office voice mail system.