Ranger shoots violent camper at Crater Lake
July 29, 2005
By MARK FREEMAN
A club-wielding man who threatened to kill two Crater Lake National Park rangers at a campground Wednesday night was shot dead by one of them in what was believed to be the first such shooting in park history, authorities said.
The unidentified man was shot twice after he refused orders to drop the club and charged a ranger through a cloud of pepper spray, park officials said Thursday.
The man was within 10 feet of at least one of the rangers before the other ranger fired two shots, park spokesman William “Mac” Brock said Thursday.
The man was pronounced dead at the scene of the 10 p.m. shooting, which erupted after police were called to the Mazama Campground to investigate a report of a domestic disturbance, Brock said.
The man’s name was being withheld Thursday while investigators attempted to notify his next of kin, park spokesman Michael Justin said. Justin also declined to identify the rangers.
The dead man was believed to be about 40 years old and a resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, but no other details were available Thursday, Justin said.
Park historian Steve Mark said he could not recall a ranger-involved fatal shooting since the park was formed in 1902.
“I don’t think there’s ever been one,” Mark said. “Crater Lake has been a pretty safe detail.”
The shooting was under investigation by National Park Service special agents as well as the Oregon State Police.
The OSP crime lab was at the scene Thursday, along with an accident reconstructionist who was drafting a diagram of the scene, said Lt. Steve Nork at the OSP’s Klamath Falls office.
OSP investigators also canvassed the area for evidence Thursday, Nork said.
The case began when rangers were dispatched to quell a domestic disturbance involving the man and a woman with whom he was camping at the 211-site campground, which is near the southwest entrance to the park.
The two rangers were confronted immediately by the man wielding the large club, Brock said.
The man became increasingly hostile to the rangers and wandered around the campsite despite orders to stop, Brock said.
After one ranger fired pepper spray at the man, the man remained armed with the club and continued to advance on one of the rangers when the other fired, park service officials said in a prepared statement.
Justin said he did not know whether alcohol or drugs were involved in the shooting.
The shooting occurred in the D Loop portion of the campground, where 30 of the 35 campsites were occupied, Justin said. It was unclear Thursday if any of the other campers witnessed the shooting, he said.
The park service reported 106 assaults on park rangers or park police nationwide in 2003, the most recent year of statistics available, said park service spokesman Al Mash in Washington, D.C. Only one of those involved a firearm, Mash said.
“It’s a very rare thing,” Mash said.
The last time a ranger was killed on duty was in 2002 at Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Mash said.
In that case, a ranger was shot and killed while helping Border Patrol agents investigating a murder there.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.