Man shot at Crater Lake arrested a year ago
Herald and News
Klamath Falls, Oregon
August 02, 2005
Combined wire, local reports
Police records indicate a California man shot dead by a ranger at Crater Lake National Park last week had been arrested a year ago for allegedly pulling a knife on security guards who confronted him for shoplifting.
Ronn Merl Ward, 38, of Sunnyvale, Calif., was shot twice Wednesday night after he rushed with a club at a ranger in the Mazama Campground, authorities have said.
The National Park Service has reopened the campsite where Ward was killed, but no new information on the shooting is expected for a few days.
Park spokesman Mac Brock said lab work from an autopsy done Friday in Medford is not expected until late this week or early next week.
The National Park Service and other law enforcement agencies are continuing an investigation to determine if the ranger was justified in using deadly force.
Police records in Sunnyvale show Ward was arrested May 12, 2004, at a neighbor’s house after brandishing a knife at security guards who confronted him for stealing merchandise at a grocery store. Guards notified police after noting Ward’s license plate.
In a letter to the editor of the Sun newspaper in Sunnyvale dated March 30, 2005, Ward criticized the city for failing to provide enough public defenders to give people like himself proper representation. In the letter, posted on the newspaper’s Web site, he wrote that he was convicted of robbery for taking some breath mints.
According to authorities and witnesses, Ward was yelling obscenities and banging around his campsite Wednesday night so that he could be heard through the trees at the evening campfire lecture in the campground, which was filled with 424 campers. A woman was in the trailer with him.
When two park rangers came to talk to him, he came out with his shirt off, but did not obey orders to raise his hands or stand still. He asked if the rangers wanted to die, then rushed at them with a wooden club. When a cloud of pepper spray did not stop him, one of the rangers shot him twice and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Brock said the shooting death is the first in memory at Crater Lake.
“There aren’t really any precedents for that,” park historian Steve Mark said of a ranger firing or even pulling a weapon on a visitor.
Mark said there was an incident about nine years ago when a person at a campfire program pointed a loaded crossbow at the park interpreter. When challenged by a park employee, the person put down the crossbow. The crossbow was confiscated, but no arrests were made.