MOOSE, WY — On Wednesday, August 14, a Grand Teton National Park ranger deployed his Taser to subdue a 23-year-old man from Kentucky who became agitated, physically combative and a risk for public safety. The ranger was attempting to talk with the man following a search for his whereabouts and concern for his wellbeing after he spent an unscheduled night in the park’s backcountry. As the search was underway, rangers learned that the young man had a history of mental illness when they interviewed his father.
The day before his arrest, the young Kentuckian became angry while participating in a mountain climbing class near Hidden Falls in Cascade Canyon. The young man claimed that he could “climb the Grand Teton on my own” and left his guide and other class members. He spent the night somewhere in Cascade Canyon without appropriate gear and a prearranged plan to backcountry camp.
At the request of his father, rangers initiated a search for the missing man on Wednesday morning. He was located about 10:30 a.m. and a few minutes, later rangers approached him. Because he was clearly upset and disturbed by the presence of uniformed NPS rangers, they backed off and simply followed him as he continued out of the backcountry by foot and shuttle boat across Jenny Lake. As the man arrived at the south Jenny Lake parking area, a ranger tried to engage him in conversation to assess his mental state. Rangers also wanted to discuss their recent search for his whereabouts and confirm violations of park regulations.
During the conversation about his actions the day before and that morning, the young man became abnormally upset and confrontational. The ranger called for back-up and a second ranger arrived on scene just as the man became physically combative. Both rangers wrestled with the Kentuckian and pinned him to the ground. During the scuffle, one ranger deployed a Taser. Ultimately, it took three rangers to restrain the young man.
The man was transported to St. John’s Medical Center on Wednesday morning for a medical exam and psychological evaluation under Wyoming Title 25. For his safety, he remained at the hospital for the night. The young man was released into the custody of his father on Thursday, August 15, and together they traveled back to their Kentucky home.
The young man was cited for camping without a permit and also faces a charge of interference under the Code of Federal Regulations §2.32 (a)(1): Interfering with agency functions.
Tasers are a non-lethal weapon used by law enforcement officers to subdue belligerent or potentially dangerous people when other methods of defense become ineffective; they are typically used when the safety of a ranger or the public is at stake. In this particular incident, no injuries were sustained to the involved rangers or to the young Kentuckian.