$50,000 Verdict for Dog Walker Who Was Tased by Park Ranger

Haddad & Sherwin won a $50,000 verdict after a bench trial for a man who was Tased once by a national park ranger after he walked away from her while she was giving him a warning for having a small dog off-leash. The Court found that the National Park Service policy on Tasers failed to conform to the law in the Ninth Circuit, encompassing nine western states including California.

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Related Headlines
  • Zap - Should the State Keep Shocking Citizens to Enforce Minor Laws?
    Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, October 15, 2014

    ... In the civil-rights lawsuit Gary Hesterberg v. United States of America, the electrician sought damages for his treatment at the hands of the National Park Service. In response, the federal government explicitly defended the notion that it is permissible to tase an unarmed citizen in the back while enforcing something as trivial as an off-leash violation (in a wilderness area where off-leash dogs were tolerated for years). During testimony, Hunter Bailey, the deputy chief of law enforcement for the National Park Service, maintained that a park ranger would be legally justified in tasing even "a 9-year-old girl" or "a pregnant woman" if they were caught walking a dog off leash and tried to leave the scene against a ranger's orders, as Hesterberg did. This institutional mindset leads directly to violent civil-rights violations, as a federal court ultimately ruled in this important suit. The National Park Service now owes the jogger that it victimized $50,000 in damages. And law enforcement is on notice that the Constitution forbids tasing so needlessly.

  • Judge rules against park ranger who used stun gun on dog walker
    Kale Williams, San Francisco Chronicle, October 10, 2014

    A federal judge ruled that a National Park Service ranger acted unlawfully with unreasonable force when she used a stun gun on a man who was walking his dogs off-leash after he gave her a false name in unincorporated San Mateo County in 2012. The incident began the afternoon of Jan. 29, 2012, when Gary Hesterberg, 50, of Montara took his two dogs, a beagle named Jack and a rat terrier named JoJo, on a walk as he had done many times before in the Rancho Corral de Tierra open space, referred to as the Rancho. Mr. Hesterberg was represented by Haddad & Sherwin, Oakland, CA, who tried his case in federal court in August, 2014. The verdict from that bench trial was released by the Court on October 9, 2014.

  • Judge rules against ranger for tasing Montara man
    Mark Noack, Half Moon Bay Review, October 10, 2014

    A National Park Service ranger overstepped her authority when she subdued a Montara man with a stun gun during an encounter over his unleashed dog, according to a federal court ruling published on Thursday. ... Montara resident Gary Hesterberg was awarded $50,000 in damages for his emotional and mental suffering - a fraction of the $500,000 he originally requested. His attorney, Michael Haddad, pointed out that the case was more about the principles than winning a hefty sum. "We ended up doing this case practically for free, but there were important principles at stake," he said. "We were trying to protect other people who would be tased under these unlawful procedures." ... Federal Judge Jacqueline Corley of the Northern District Court of California found that the ranger used excessive force and acted unreasonably given the situation. In part, this error was due to the federal park system's own vague enforcement policies, she stated. ... "On their face (the policies) provide no guidance for the court - not to mention DOI and NPS officers," she wrote. "They are, essentially, standardless policies, devoid of any rules for dealing with fleeing subjects." Haddad, Hesterberg's attorney, said the court ruling should prod the agencies to bring their policies into compliance with the case law.

  • Judge rules park ranger was wrong to use stun gun on dog walker
    Hector Beccera, Los Angeles Times, October 10, 2014

    More than two years ago, a Northern California man gave National Park Service ranger Sarah Cavallaro an attitude and was generally uncooperative as they discussed his off-leash dogs. As Gary Hesterberg turned to leave, Cavallaro pulled the trigger on a stun gun, sending electric charges coursing into his back and buttocks. On Thursday a federal judge ruled that the park ranger's response to Hesterberg's apparent intransigence was inappropriate, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. ... In a statement one of Hesterberg's attorneys, Michael Haddad, said: "Tasers can kill. They should never be used against a non-threatening person as the ranger did here."

  • Hesterberg v. United States
    United States Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley, United States District Court, October 9, 2014

    Order and Opinion in favor of Plaintiff Gary Hesterberg

  • Leash-Law Violator Takes Aim at Taser Policy
    Maria Dinzeo, Courthouse News Service, August 14, 2014

    SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Rules governing police Taser use do not gel with 9th Circuit requirements, a lawyer said Wednesday in the battery case by a man whose ordeal stemmed from a run in the park with his dogs. Gary Hesterberg is suing the United States for battery and false imprisonment after park ranger Sarah Cavallaro used her Taser on him in Rancho Corral de Tierra, a park near Hesterberg's home in Montara, Calif., that the Golden Gate National Recreation Area had just taken over. The 50-year-old had been jogging with his beagle and rat terrier but leashed the latter dog only after he was approached by Cavallaro, who allegedly did not identify herself and said that she would merely warn Hesterberg about his leash-law violation. Though Cavallaro said she would not issue Hesterberg a citation, she sought to detain Hesterberg when the fake name he gave along with his date of birth and address did not check out with dispatch. Cavallaro grabbed Hesterberg's arm the second time he turned to go and then pulled her Taser on him. She held him at Taser-point for four minutes while she called for backup. It was when the frustrated Hesterberg turned to leave a third time that Cavallaro shot him in the back. Hunter Bailey, deputy chief of law enforcement and policy with the National Park Service in Washington, D.C., testified Wednesday that Cavallero followed National Park Service policy when she used her Taser on Hesterberg. On cross-examination, Hesterberg's lawyer Michael Haddad said Bailey did not know what 9th Circuit standards applied to the legal use of a Taser in 2012. "You're in no position to give an opinion on whether the force used was legally justified by the 9th Circuit at the time of this incident," Haddad said. Bailey said, "I'm just here to testify that Ranger Cavallaro was following policy." Haddad tested that statement with a hypothetical. "If Mr. Hesterberg had been a 9-year-old girl instead of a 50-year-old man, would Ranger Cavallaro have been within policy to Taser her under the totality of the circumstances?" he asked. Bailey answered: "Sure, if she had evaluated other options." Haddad pointed to the 9th Circuit case Bryan v. MacPherson , which placed the Taser at a higher level of force.

  • San Mateo County man who park ranger shot with Taser files civil rights lawsuit
    Joshua Melvin, San Jose Mercury News, March 21, 2013

    OAKLAND - A San Mateo County man filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Thursday against the National Park Service ranger who shot him with a Taser during a confrontation sparked last year by his off leash dog. Gary Hesterberg, 51, alleges Ranger Sarah Cavallaro violated his Fourth Amendment right protecting against unreasonable force during arrest when she zapped him on a trail at Rancho Corral de Tierra open space near Montara. Hesterberg had ignored Cavallaro's orders not to walk away after she stopped and warned him about having one of his two small dogs off-leash Jan. 29, 2012. The area had recently come under control of the National Park Service which started forbidding free roaming dogs there. Some residents, dog owners and Rep. Jackie Speier, (D) Hillsborough, were outraged by the use of force. "A law enforcement officer is only allowed to tase someone if they pose a substantial and immediate threat," said Hesterberg's attorney, Oakland based attorney Michael Haddad. "But in this case she tased him because he started to walk away."

  • Rep. Speier rips Park Service in Taser case
    Demian Bulwa, San Francisco Chronicle, August 28, 2012

    Gary Hesterberg was zapped with a park ranger's Taser on Jan. 29, 2012, while walking his dogs along a trail at Rancho Corral de Tierra near Montara in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. ... Rep. Jackie Speier ripped the National Park Service on Tuesday over its investigation into a ranger's use of a Taser to subdue a San Mateo County man who was allegedly uncooperative after being stopped with off-leash dogs. ... Michael Haddad, Hesterberg's attorney, said his client had been handcuffed and held for several hours. Haddad filed a claim last month seeking $500,000 from the park service, a precursor to a civil rights lawsuit. "It looks like this is the only way to get a real strong investigation into the ranger's actions," Haddad said.