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Judge: Park ranger’s use of taser on drone operator was justified

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    Travis Sanders

A federal judge upheld a park ranger’s use of a Taser on a man who tried to run away after being told not to fly his drone in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Following two days of testimony in a non-jury trial in Hilo, the judge found Travis R. Sanders guilty Wednesday of violating a lawful order and fined Sanders $1,000. U.S. Magistrate Judge Richard R. Puglisi also imposed a one-year ban, prohibiting Sanders from entering or being within the boundaries of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

In his verdict, Puglisi said Sanders heard, understood yet disobeyed the park ranger’s lawful order to stop running away and that the ranger’s use of a Taser was entirely justified. According to the ranger’s citation, Sanders fled after the ranger tried to arrest him.

Sanders had been charged with two other counts of violating a lawful order for initially refusing to land his drone, then refusing to identify himself or produce identification. He had also been charged with violating National Park rules for launching and flying a drone in the park.

The government dropped the two park rules violations.

After the second day of testimony, Puglisi found Sanders guilty of violating a lawful order by continuing to run away, but dismissed the other two lawful order violations.

The incident happened Apr. 25 last year outside the park’s Jaggar Museum overlooking Kilauea’s Halemaumau crater.

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  • This is concerning. Who was the guy a threat to? Was the ranger physically unable to follow and apprehend the guy? Doesn’t seem like we should be using something that is potentially life threatening for something as minor as this was. What would the ranger have done if he/she didn’t have a taser? Shoot him? Seems like a little common sense should have prevailed here. Sure the dummy should have complied with the ranger’s orders, but really?

    • Completely agree here! This dummy committed an act that should be no more than a minor infraction, the equivalent of a parking ticket. I’m going to bet that some power hungry thug government law enforcement workers already will find it justifiable to allow a parking attendant to tase a car owner when trying to argue about a parking ticket or even if someone jay-walks across the street.

      • Oh, please.

        This was not a case of someone getting tased for simply flying a drone (which is not harmless fun by the way). It was about this jackass’s failure to obey a completely appropriate command from a federal officer whose job description is slightly different from a parking attendant’s.

        As for your jaywalking scenario…. Fine: if you jaywalk, of course, you get scolded and ticketed. If you jaywalk and then choose to stand in traffic, refuse all orders to move to the sidewalk and become combative, yes, you should get your hair straightened.

        • Got a good chuckle out of your comment. All the guy did is refuse to provide ID or identify himself and proceeded to walk/run away no mention of him being combative. While I fully condone enforcement of laws I thing the ranger probably went too far as to tase the idiot for this minor offense. If anything I think the ranger was on a power trip to make an example of the idiot.

        • Dragon, you can’t fully condone enforcement of laws and dismiss this behavior at the same time. Power trip or no, the judge sides with the ranger, and so do I.

  • Not supposed to run. If you run then an unwritten custom plays that they can beat you up when they catch you. You lucky you just got fined with no jail time. All he had to do was obey orders to cease and desist. Could have driven to another part of the volcanoes area that was outside the parks jurisdiction and restarted his sport. Musta got sheety parents.

    • “Unwritten customs” usually fall well outside the legal limits. That’s why they’re unwritten!

      If the judge or one of his kids had been the one tased I’m sure the way this played out would’ve been completely different.

  • How stupid that crime like this was even committed, and even more stupid that it had to be prosecuted due to his refusal to comply. 2 days of court time for a guy flying a drone in a lava field. What a waste of taxpayer resources, the judge should have gave him some jail time just for causing such a hassle instead of listening to the ranger.

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