Park rangers cleared in camper’s shooting death
September 23, 2005
By SARAH LEMON
Federal authorities say two rangers acted properly when they shot and killed a violent camper at Crater Lake National Park in July
CRATER LAKE — National Park rangers were justified in shooting and killing a drunken California man in July, federal officials announced Thursday.
Separate investigations by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the National Park Service absolved rangers of any wrongdoing, said Crater Lake Chief Ranger Dave Brennan. Two park rangers — whose names have been withheld — shot and killed Ronn Merl Ward, a Sunnyvale resident, on July 27 in the park’s Mazama campground after responding to a 9-1-1 call there.
“Ronn Ward’s violent behavior left them no choice but to use deadly force to protect themselves and the park’s visitors,” Brennan said in a prepared release.
The rangers’ names have not been released in the interest of their safety, Brennan said Thursday. Federal officials became aware in the course of the investigation that Ward had corresponded with prison inmates, Brennan said. The chief ranger refused to discuss Ward’s criminal record or if he had spent time incarcerated.
Ward, 38, was intoxicated when he brandished a “heavy wooden club” at the rangers, threatened to kill them and ignored repeated warnings to stop, according to Brennan’s release. The rangers retreated and attempted to halt Ward with pepper spray. Ward continued to advance and was shot approximately six feet from the rangers while moving toward them. The entire event transpired in about two minutes, Brennan said.
Ward’s blood-alcohol level was measured during an autopsy at .27, more than three times the legal driving limit. Autopsy results showed he died from two gunshot wounds to his chest and head.
Before the rangers arrived, Ward threatened his girlfriend with the club and smashed numerous items inside her camp trailer, which occupied one of 211 sites in the campground. The noise prompted 9-1-1 calls to rangers, Brennan said. Between 30 and 35 nearby campsites were occupied, rangers said.
Ward’s girlfriend was badly bruised after the attack, Brennan said. Ward, who had a history of violence against ex-wives and girlfriends, had talked about killing himself several days before the shooting, Brennan said. He was upset over a child custody dispute and difficulties finding work.
Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 776-4487, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.