Federal Ranger Arrests Activist Family on BLM Campgrounds
On June 29, 2015, a federal Bureau Land Management Ranger working for The Department of Interior in Humboldt County, California stepped across the lines and abused his authority to retaliate against an activist family – my family – who were simply looking to enjoy a camping trip after volunteering for a major local event.
That simple trip to BLM Land has manifested into a nightmare of abuse by both The Bureau of Land Management and the Humboldt County Law Enforcement Division, resulting in what most would construe as an illegal arrest and detention…or the act of “abduction.”
‘an investigatory stop is not an arrest despite the fact that a reasonable person would not believe he is free to leave.’ (U.S. v. Hastamorir, 881 F.2d at 1556)
I have been working in Northern California on a low cost housing community and volunteering for local non-profit organizations.
My family and I were stopped as we setup camp at Tolkan Camp in King Range, which is managed by The Dept of Interior, specifically the Bureau of Land Management.
Ranger Joseph Crane initiated contact with my family and cameras were drawn. Within moments, a simple “hello” became an investigatory stop, which later escalated to a felony arrest warrant for the offense of resisting arrest.
After completing a lengthy detention to check for warrants, denying multiple attempts to have a supervisor on scene, illegally searching and traumatizing two small children, Ranger Crane released my family and cited us for failing to pay a camping fee, despite that he himself had us detained during the 30-minute grace period provided to pay such a fee.
The following day we went to the Arcata BLM office to make a complaint for misconduct and it was received verbally by the office manager, who contacted the interim chief of the law enforcement divisions, who, in turn, heard the complaint via speakerphone.
Everything seemed to be a normal grievance procedure until months later, when I was working as a volunteer for a major local event called Reggae on The River.
In early August, while loading up after the largest event in the area, a California Highway Patrol officer pulled me to the side due to an alleged “improper turn”.
When the officer ran my name he confirmed a felony warrant for resisting arrest, stemming from the interaction with Ranger Joe Crane. I was booked into the Humboldt Jail and bailed out the same day.
On August 24, I appeared at Superior Court ready to fight this abusive case, only to be told that my scheduled court appearance was cancelled and I’d receive a court date in the mail.
The new court date was issued for October 15, 2015, so that is still pending.
But the nightmare did not end there. My co-defendant and fellow activist, Brian Kellison learned that his food assistance was canceled due to a felony warrant for, you got it…resisting arrest.
At the end of September, Kellison was working a non-profit rally for the homeless when a local fueling station called Quick Stop in Ukiah called the police to spite his sign-holding demonstration.
Police arrived and Kellison was illegally detained while his name was ran for warrants. He was taken into custody for the outstanding resisting arrest warrant and sat in Mendocino County for five days awaiting an extradition to Humboldt.
Upon landing in Humboldt, Kellison was due to be arraigned within 48 hours according to California Penal Code 825. This law was codified to protect innocent people from lengthy incarceration without due process.
But it was not.
Instead, I spent each day on the phone with the district attorney’s office demanding Kellison be released, telling them that he was being held unlawfully and for a unreasonable amount of time.
The district attorney’s office refused to allow me to speak with a prosecutor, telling me that Kellison was going to remain incarcerated until October 15 and not be allowed to appear in front of a judge until then. It was at this time that I contacted Jeffrey Schwartz , a local attorney in the Humboldt County, Eureka area.
After he was unable to reach the jail by phone, Schwartz visited the jail on October 8. That evening, at around 9 p.m., Kellison phoned, saying he’d been released and needed to get back home – a four hour drive away.
I was in a similar situation when he was bailed out and told that he “could wait until morning to get a ride from a deputy or find one myself.” I was forced to hitchhike because my money was returned to me in the form of a check.
What began as a simple camping trip has manifested into a gross case of police misconduct, abuse of power and complete incompetence of court process.
We are currently fighting the cases brought against us and intend to file civil action after the criminal nightmare has been relieved. It is believed that this intent has led to the retaliation by The Bureau of Land Management in efforts to leverage themselves against a civil claim, a common practice in law enforcement.