Ranger details Crater Lake shooting
July 30, 2005
By MARK FREEMAN
Crater Lake National Park authorities say it took less than two minutes for a California man’s encounter with park rangers to escalate from a domestic disturbance to a fatal shooting.
National Park Service authorities Friday identified the dead man as Ronn Merl Ward, 38, of Sunnyvale, a San Francisco Bay Area suburb.
Ward threatened the two rangers with a two-foot-long club that had a large knot at the end and ran through a cloud of pepper spray to within 10 feet of one ranger before he was shot dead by the other, authorities said.
“He was holding it above his head and charging toward the rangers telling them he was going to kill them,” park spokesman William “Mac” Brock said Friday.
The rangers first encountered Ward at 10:08 p.m. at the trailer he was sharing with his unidentified girlfriend in the D Loop section of the Mazama Campground, Brock said.
The rangers radioed into their dispatcher at 10:10 p.m. that Ward was shot, Brock said.
“His agitation and hostility escalated very, very quickly,” Brock said.
An autopsy was scheduled for late Friday at the morgue within the Oregon State Police facilities in Central Point. The results were not available Friday.
Brock declined to say whether drugs or alcohol were believed to be involved in the case, but a toxicology screen was scheduled to be part of the autopsy.
“Right now, that’s all subject to more investigation,” Brock said.
Park officials Friday continued to decline to reveal the identities of the rangers, who were placed on “restrictive duty” status and were assisting in the investigation, Brock said.
National Park Service special agents and the Oregon State Police were conducting a criminal investigation. Brock said another park service special agent was conducting an administrative investigation to determine whether the use of fatal force was justifiable under park service protocols.
While officials confirmed that the ranger fired twice, Brock declined to reveal where or how many times Ward was hit.
Brock said the club was a heavy “imposing type of club” that was purchased, possibly locally.
Ward’s girlfriend was not charged with a crime and was released, Brock said.
Ward has no criminal record in Oregon, and California records were not available here Friday.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.