Ranger uses stun gun on man flying drone over lava lake
Honolulu — A park ranger used a Taser on a man flying a drone over a lake of lava at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, then arrested the man in front of several hundred people after telling him that flying an unmanned aircraft at a national park is prohibited.
Crowds have been flocking to an overlook area at the park to watch a steadily rising lava lake at the summit of Kilauea volcano.
Travis Ray Sanders brought his family to the park on Saturday evening to record the lava with his drone and didn’t realize the man yelling at him to bring it down was a ranger, he told Hawaii News Now.
“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,” Sanders told the Honolulu news station.
The ranger asked Sanders three times to bring the drone down, and Sanders eventually brought it down, park spokeswoman Jessica Ferracane told The Associated Press Tuesday.
“The ranger identified himself and approached the individual, who refused to identify himself,” Ferracane said.
Because Sanders fled and was near the edge of the caldera rim — where there’s a 500-foot drop — the ranger deployed a Taser, she said.
Another visitor to the park, Randy Horne, was setting up his camera and tripod at the overlook when he heard a commotion. He heard someone yell stop and when he turned around, he saw the ranger pull out a stun gun. He saw the weapon’s “sparkly, glowing blue” wires attached to a man on the ground.
“I really didn’t see there was any severe threat going on,” Horne, of Honokaa, Hawaii, told the AP. “In my opinion, I thought it was a severe overreaction.”
Horne watched as Sanders was handcuffed, checked by paramedics and then put into a police car.
Sanders, 35, of Pahoa, Hawaii, was arrested and cited with interfering with agency functions and operating an aircraft on undesignated land. He was taken to a Hawaii County police cellblock where he spent the night and was released in the morning on $500 bond, Ferracane said. He has a July 22 court date.
“He was described as being very unpredictable, belligerent,” Ferracane said of Sanders. “The ranger felt he needed to be stopped for the safety of himself and others.”