Photographer Tased and Arrested After Flying a Drone in Hawaiian National Park

May 4, 2015

Liron Samuels

Liron Samuels is a wildlife and commercial photographer based in Israel. When he isn’t waking up at 4am to take photos of nature, he stays awake until 4am taking photos of the night skies or time lapses. You can see more of his work on his website or follow him on Facebook.

Photographer Tased and Arrested After Flying a Drone in Hawaiian National Park

May 4, 2015

Liron Samuels

Liron Samuels is a wildlife and commercial photographer based in Israel. When he isn’t waking up at 4am to take photos of nature, he stays awake until 4am taking photos of the night skies or time lapses. You can see more of his work on his website or follow him on Facebook.

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Travis Sanders visited the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park on Saturday night with his wife and daughter in order to see the rising lava lake at Halema’uma’u Crater, but never imagined that he’d turn into the main attraction.

At some point Sanders decided to use a drone to capture the spectacle and the crowds, later claiming he was unaware his actions were against the law, but things turned ugly when a park ranger approached and demanded that he brings it down.

Accounts of what happened after the ranger asked to see Sanders’ ID greatly differ. The photographer stated he was simply trying to avoid a confrontational ranger, while park officials said the “very unruly” suspect fled the scene and was stopped in order to protect the hundreds of people at the scene and prevent him from falling down the edge of the 500-foot deep caldera.

Hundreds flocked to get a glimpse of the rising lava lake and several of the people who witnessed the confrontation contacted Hawai’i News Now. Most said the incident was excessive and unnecessary, but the park’s spokesperson, Jessica Ferracane, stated otherwise.

“The suspect refused to identify himself and fled — not far from the edge of the caldera, which is more than 500 feet”, she said, adding that “the ranger deployed his taser to stop the fleeing suspect and then arrested the suspect for failure to comply with a lawful order and interfering with agency functions”.

The drone model Sanders used to capture the video is unknown, but according to him it was a 3” micro quadcopter “toy”.

“My toy has some lights on it so I thought it would be fun to fly it up and down — no big deal, right? Well apparently they’re not allowed there I found out,” he said, before going on to share his side of the story:

“A guy approached me in the dark and said, ‘Bring it down!’ and he was very angry. I had no idea he was a ranger. He sounded very angry, confrontational — like he wanted to fight — and I didn’t really want to stick around for it so I just told him, ‘I don’t have ID and I’m leaving’.

My daughter was crying. She was screaming, ‘Leave him alone! I hate you!’ and she started going after the park ranger guy. There was a whole bunch of people going, ‘Don’t worry man, we got it on video. He’s not going to do anything else to you,’ but he kept threatening to tase me again as if I was moving or something and the only thing that was moving was my mouth I was saying, ‘Okay, okay. I’m not moving. I’m not getting up. I’m not resisting you”.

However, the spokesperson contradicted Sanders’ version and said that “apparently the suspect was very unpredictable and very unruly and the national park service ranger was really unclear what his next actions would be and needed to stop this individual”.

Hawaii News Now – KGMB and KHNL

Ferracane also reminded national park visitors that they should leave their drones at home, as flying unmanned aircrafts is illegal in all 407 national parks across the US. “That national policy was enacted in August of last year and the reason is for visitor and resource protection and visitor enjoyment”, she explained.

There’s currently an ongoing investigation, but park officials say the ranger acted in the best interest of public safety. They added that while no one has been taken into custody in the past for flying a drone in the national park, a ranger using a taser in not unprecedented; stating there have been less than five incidents since law enforcement rangers received them seven years ago.

Is this another case of excessive use of force by law enforcement or an irresponsible drone operator? Perhaps a bit of both.

(Updated to replace the lead image)

[via Hawai’i News Now]

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Liron Samuels

Liron Samuels

Liron Samuels is a wildlife and commercial photographer based in Israel. When he isn’t waking up at 4am to take photos of nature, he stays awake until 4am taking photos of the night skies or time lapses. You can see more of his work on his website or follow him on Facebook.

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26 responses to “Photographer Tased and Arrested After Flying a Drone in Hawaiian National Park”

  1. Dušan DuPe Pethö Avatar
    Dušan DuPe Pethö

    …steak :-)

  2. aleroe Avatar
    aleroe

    Park rangers carry tasers??!! Yogi Bear better clean up his act!

    1. Travis Sanders Avatar
      Travis Sanders

      His Taser must have been turned up to subdue Yogi because it hurt like hell.

  3. doge Avatar
    doge

    Good.

  4. Morgan Glassco Avatar
    Morgan Glassco

    For the safety of the visitors, I’ll tase someone

    If nobody had been tased everyone would have been safe. Try to make sense of that.

    1. Jim Johnson Avatar
      Jim Johnson

      It’s pretty easy to make sense of it because this sort of thing happens all the time. People act erratically with the possibility of injuring someone else (especially in a dangerous area) police stop them in the least dangerous way they can.

      In this case the ranger thought a taser was the least dangerous method. Whether it was the right decision is the reason they are doing an investigation.

      1. Jason Wright Avatar
        Jason Wright

        BULLS***.
        Taser is meant to be a non-lethal alternative to a situation where otherwise a gun would be used.
        You don’t shoot an unarmed man in the back while he runs away so why would you tase him? oh, wait, the police in America DO shoot unarmed men in the back while they run away, my mistake.
        Carry on as normal in the “Land of the free”.
        Free to die at the hands of the “police” that is.

        Glad I don’t live there if people think this sort of crap is ok.

        1. Jim Johnson Avatar
          Jim Johnson

          I agree that tasers should not be used in this way and that is a discussion worth having, but the fact that the man was brought down with force is not unusual nor outside of the purview of public safety.

          What I object to in the comment above and in yours, is the knee jerk hyperbole and outrage. Police abuse happens, but thinking everything is abusive is as bad as unconditionally supporting the police.

        2. Travis Sanders Avatar
          Travis Sanders

          YOu are correct all except Taser actually had to change there none lethal phrase to “less lethal” do to the fact that police have killed over 500 people with Tasers.

    2. Travis Sanders Avatar
      Travis Sanders

      The crowds point exactly. You can hear them in the video expressing this concern. It was to crowded to be firing off deadly weapons in the dark for no reason.

  5. Jim Johnson Avatar
    Jim Johnson

    “I had no idea he was a ranger.”

    I’m willing to bet he was in uniform and using a flashlight. I’m not sure how you could mistake that person for anyone else.

    1. Morgan Glassco Avatar
      Morgan Glassco

      Everyone representing enforcement of every kind should identify themselves. Also it was night and his attention was elsewhere (making sure the UAV didn’t crash into people). So yes, a person to person conversation is the best approach, after identifying yourself.

      A lot of people a uneasy around UAV’s and it’s almost expected that someone will come assert themselves into what you’re doing. So yeah, identify yourself as a Ranger and your expectations and go from there. Notice the news channel said most called it excessive and unnecessary?

      1. Jim Johnson Avatar
        Jim Johnson

        I am not saying the ranger was completely in the right— he should be investigated— but I don’t trust the general public to decide what is excessive… especially in a emotionally charged situation.

        For example: take a look at the high emotion and hyperbole of these comments and ask yourself if they are the best witnesses.

      2. Travis Sanders Avatar
        Travis Sanders

        I told him what I was doing. He tased me simply to assert his power.

  6. Tal Avatar
    Tal

    What if the guy has a heart implant tech, which would fry in case of tazing or other medical issues – so, because aero-videographing a vulcano with his daughter, he should die or even to be humiliated like that? What example this gives to the future generations? Give him a 500$ fine and spend it on the Park fences/to REAL education of the guards or something useful for the ‘community’. I mean, he did not run amok with a machete or shotgun, he was just using a tiny piece of flying fun, not a freaking Predator drone in a war zone – USA is so screwed, man…

    1. Rick Avatar
      Rick

      How do you propose giving a $500 fine to someone refusing to identify himself and trying to get away from the ranger?

  7. Adnan Phoenix Wolf Avatar
    Adnan Phoenix Wolf

    America is somehow seriously fucked up imho…Why does everybod have to taser someone?!

    1. jason bourne Avatar
      jason bourne

      It’s better than getting shot with a gun.

  8. Rick Avatar
    Rick

    What I’d like to know is where he got a 3″ drone that takes good video in the dark.

    1. Travis Sanders Avatar
      Travis Sanders

      The miracle of modern news. They have made of a bunch of stuff about me.

  9. Gordon Lewis Avatar
    Gordon Lewis

    Those who have led privileged lives are often surprised by how uncompromising officers of the law–and yes, that includes park rangers–can be when angry or provoked. Like it or not, American law officers are trained to assert their authority and win every confrontation. This was the predictable result, and I’m not particularly sympathetic with the guy who got tased. If you want to “win” against a law officer you had best do it in court and not by defiance.

  10. bartom Avatar
    bartom

    So where i all the video the bystanders took. Just another incomplete news report, that could have been better.

    1. Travis Sanders Avatar
      Travis Sanders

      I know. anyone???? there where lost of people videoing me. I need the tapes for court!

  11. Andrew Sible Avatar
    Andrew Sible

    I hate to think what would have occurred if the ranger had a gun.

    1. Travis Sanders Avatar
      Travis Sanders

      He did

  12. Travis Sanders Avatar
    Travis Sanders

    They shot me in the back. I was no threat to anyone. I need help affording legal defense. Please sent a dollar my way. Thanks. http://www.AidTravis.com