OAKLAND -- A San Mateo County man filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Thursday against the National Park Service ranger who shot him with a Taser during a confrontation sparked last year by his off-leash dog.
Gary Hesterberg, 51, alleges Ranger Sarah Cavallaro violated his Fourth Amendment right protecting against unreasonable force during arrest when she zapped him on a trail at Rancho Corral de Tierra open space near Montara.
Hesterberg had ignored Cavallaro's orders not to walk away after she stopped and warned him about having one of his two small dogs off-leash Jan. 29, 2012. The area had recently come under control of the National Park Service which started forbidding free roaming dogs there. Some residents, dog owners and Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, were outraged by the use of force.
"A law enforcement officer is only allowed to tase someone if they pose a substantial and immediate threat," said Hesterberg's attorney, Oakland-based attorney Michael Haddad. "But in this case she tased him because he started to walk away."
Cavallaro, who transferred to the Grand Canyon after the incident, was cleared of any wrongdoing, National Park Service spokesman Howard Levitt said. But the report on the investigation was never made public due to federal worker privacy laws. Levitt declined further comment on the suit, which he said he hadn't seen.
Hesterberg, of Montara, claims the ranger ignored his questions about who she was and which agency she worked for.
As the confrontation escalated, Hesterberg said "Do not tase me. I have a heart condition," according to the lawsuit.
He also says he gave her his real name during the incident, which contradicts authorities allegations he gave a false one.
Finally Hesterberg says the ranger yanked the razor-sharp darts from the shock weapon out of his back as he lay handcuffed on the ground. Prosecutors declined to file any charges against him.
Though Hesterberg sought a $500,000 settlement from the park service in an earlier claim he filed against the government, there is no dollar figure tied to the lawsuit.
"We'll leave that up to the judge and the jury," said Haddad.
Contact Joshua Melvin at 650-348-4335. Follow him at Twitter.com/melvinreport.