April 2010

Demanding Accountability

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BLM Ranger Uses Excessive Force

BLM Ranger Badge

By Curt Chancler
Investigative Reporter

Incident occurred 2-20-2010 - Being menaced, assaulted and jailed by an armed Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Park Ranger was the last thing that Dennis and Michelle Easley and their three children could have planned for when they left home on the morning of Feb. 20th 2010, for a day of play in the country with friends.

Dennis and Michelle Easley
Dennis and Michelle Easley

Dennis and Michelle Easley, their three children and friends Lana Walker with her two children, Lana’s sister Jennifer Mobbs, Adam Ramirez and his brother Zues and friend, Mark, were all preparing for a day of fun with their off road RV’s that were parked at a gravel pit near Elderberry camp grounds. Elderberry camp grounds and the surrounding area are located in Southern Oregon about fifteen miles from Central Point Oregon and has been a popular place for families to camp, ride bikes and off road vehicle’s for at least 40 years.

According to witnesses, as some in the families were preparing to ride two armed men wearing camel packs and Helmets riding unmarked dirt bikes displaying nothing that would readily indicate they were law enforcement rode up and said, “we are checking for Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) stickers.”

Michelle said they started with their new friend Mark with questions about the lack of an off road sticker on his OHV. Mark told them his OHV was broken and inoperable so they left him alone.

After a few moments the armed men came over to talk to Dennis and Michelle, and told them they were only going to give them a fix it ticket for not having OHV stickers and one of the men told Dennis he wanted to see his ID.

Dennis said he started to comply and then thought, “wait a minute, I do not even know if these guys are law enforcement.” He told the man, no I am not going to show you anything until you show me you’re ID, the man took out a container of pepper spray and started to shake it, ( that’s when) the mood became more intense. Dennis told the man, you took it out, if you’re going to use it then use it, but I am not going to show you anything until you show me that you are a cop.

The man raised his voice and said show me your ID right now or I will place you under arrest.

Dennis turned around placed his hands behind his back and told the man arrest me then; the man produced handcuffs and handcuffed Dennis, telling him he was under arrest.

At this point everyone that witnessed this incident unfold stated they were frightened, stunned and could not believe it was happening. The Easley’s family dog was barking and some of the children were becoming extremely upset.

Michelle stated, as the man was putting cuffs on her husband she walked over to them and asked, why are you arresting my husband?

That’s when the second man, later Identified as BLM Ranger William Finch told Michelle to step back and she did so and then again she asked the first man, later identified as Jackson County Deputy Sheriff Jimmie Gyllenskog, why are you arresting my husband?

BLM Ranger William Finch
BLM Ranger William Finch

BLM Ranger Finch bristled and shouted I told you to step the f- - K back, Michelle complied then started walking over to the truck where Dennis and Michelle’s 13 yr. old daughter, Cheyenne, was in the back of the truck with the family dog. The family dog, a 9 month old 100 lb Rottweiler was barking and growling at BLM Ranger Finch. Michelle said the way Ranger Finch was acting, she was afraid if the dog got out of the truck that Ranger Finch would shoot the dog in front of the children.

Adam Ramirez, standing a few feet away said at this point Ranger Finch started yelling at Michelle, that she had better show him her ID. She told him twice that she did not have it with her because she had left it in their other car, but she could give him her Drivers License Number.

Adam said he walked over to the truck, took the dog out of the truck and he had only taken about 10 steps when he heard Michelle shout I have a bad neck and then her body slammed against the ground. Adam said when he spun around Michelle was on the ground and Ranger Finch was twisting her arm up behind her back and he was screaming and cussing at her.

Adam said his two small children were so frightened that his three year old daughter tried to take off running down the road and his four year old son along with Dennis and Michelle’s three year old son jumped into the car and were trying to hide. Adam said that’s when Lana tried going over to the children to calm them down. Adam said that Ranger Finch reached for his gun and started yelling, “Get the f- -k away from the car now.

Adam said Lana started crying and told Ranger Finch that she was just trying to get the children. Adam stated, “Deputy Gyllenskog told Lana that she could go to the car and try to calm the children down. BLM Ranger William Finch, while holding Michelle to the ground, put his hand on his weapon again and shouted at the thirteen year old child to get the f- -k away from the truck. Adam said that Cheyenne was so frightened that she did not know what to do.”

4 Wheelin' Friends
4 Wheelin' Friends - Rachel, Dennis, A.J., Adam

Witnesses to the incident stated at this point that Ranger Finch got up off of Michelle’s back and started to walk toward Deputy Gyllenskog, while Michelle was still on the ground crying out in pain, then Ranger Finch spun around, walked back to where Michelle was lying on the ground , bent down so he was right in her face and started screaming at her to shut the f- -k up over and over while he was banging her again and again in the forehead with the bill of his helmet.

Michelle said she did not remember much after Ranger Finch grabbed her wrist and spun her around, sweeping her feet out from under her as he slammed her to the ground.

Then he shoved his knee into the back of her neck and head and told her I said to put your f---ing hands behind your back. Michelle claimed that was the first and only time Ranger Finch had told her to put her hands behind her back. Eye wittiness’s less than 10 feet away have confirmed Michelle’s claims.

Dennis stated that he could not see everything that went on because Deputy Gyllenskog was holding the chains between his handcuffs and kept twisting him around so he could not see BLM Ranger Finch attacking his wife Michelle. Dennis said he and his daughter Cheyenne were both shouting to Ranger Finch that Michelle has a bad neck. Dennis said there was a lot of shouting, crying, cursing, name calling and dog barking going on and BLM Ranger Finch was not only the cause of it, he was the loudest and using the most vile language.

Michelle stated, “even after we were in their custody and waiting to be transported to jail, Ranger Finch continued to appear agitated. Everything he said was very sarcastic, things like, oh, you want to be nice now, well it is too late. It seemed he was trying to stir things up again; it just seemed to make things worse.”

Michelle said she asked BLM Ranger William Finch for his ID or business card twice after they had them in custody and all Finch would say was, “I don’t have them with me.”

All interviewed witnesses are in agreement that neither Jackson County Deputy Sheriff Jimmie Gyllenskog nor BLM Ranger William Finch was wearing a uniform or operating a vehicle that would cause a reasonable thinking person to believe they were law enforcement officers.

Dennis and Michelle Easley and all of the adult witnesses I interviewed agreed that neither Jackson County Deputy Sheriff Jimmie Gyllenskog or BLM Ranger William Finch were displaying the required identification cards or badges needed to enforce any laws, anywhere in the United States of America.

All interviewed witness have corroborated Dennis and Michelle Easley’s statements that both of them asked the officers more than once to show identification that would prove they were law enforcement officers. Neither officer ever complied with any of the requests.

Again, all interviewed witnesses corroborated Dennis and Michelle Easley’s claim’s that neither Deputy Gyllenskog nor BLM Ranger William Finch ever advised Dennis or Michelle Easley of their Miranda right, to remain silent and the right to counsel, before they were transported to jail.

I went to BLM’s office and spoke to Jim Whittington about claims that BLM Ranger William Finch and Jackson County Deputy Sheriff Jimmie Gyllenskog were wearing Helmets, riding unmarked dirt bikes and displaying nothing that would indicate they were law enforcement. They also never identified themselves as law enforcement officers at anytime during their contact with Dennis and Michelle Easley.

Mr. Whittington called the next day and said he spoke to Jock Hanson and said Mr. Hanson was in charge of BLM’s law enforcement department. Mr. Hanson stated that he had spoken to Mr. Finch and interviewed other witness’s that say that both Finch and Gyllenskog were in uniform and were displaying an official identification card.

As for Deputy Gyllenskog, I spoke to Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters about the incident last week and he said he would look into it and get back to me, at press time I have not heard back from him.

After interviewing the adults that were arrested and the adult eye witness to the incident, they painted a very disturbing picture of what happened to the Easley family and their friends that day.

That picture clearly shows why It does not matter if the law enforcement officer is representing federal, state, county or city government, when they attempt to enforce any law on the people of the United States of America, there are requirements that must be met and even though they vary slightly from one law enforcement agency to another, all requirements are essentially the same.

For example, The Department of the Interiors Departmental Manual establishes the standards and rules that BLM Ranger William Finch has sworn an oath to follow.

Under (1.7) Procedures (B) (D) (F)
To entrust law enforcement authority only to law enforcement professionals possessing adequate education and or experience, aptitude and high moral character.

(D) Each law enforcement officer shall be issued law enforcement identification/credentials and be authorized to exercise their official authority consistent with applicable laws, procedures, and standards found in Part 446 of the Departmental Manual.

(F) For those personnel required to wear uniforms, more than one type of uniform may be authorized by the Law Enforcement Administrator for the law enforcement unit, provided standards for its use are prescribed in writing. The uniform must display distinctive identification to ensure that law enforcement personnel shall be distinguishable from non-law enforcement personnel and can be easily recognized as law enforcement officers by the public.

Oregon law (ORS) 810.400 Uniform or Badge required. Any police officer attempting to enforce the traffic laws of this state shall be in uniform or shall conspicuously display an official identification card showing the Officer’s lawful authority.

Deputy Gyllenskog, as a sworn peace officer, is bound by oath to follow similar or the same laws and rules as described above when attempting to enforce any laws, anywhere in this country.

After interviewing the witnesses to the incident and visiting the location of the incident, it is my opinion that Deputy Gyllenskog and BLM Ranger Finch never identified themselves as law enforcement, even though they were asked to Identify themselves several times.

Statements from witnesses that Deputy Gyllenskog and BLM Ranger Finch were not displaying anything that would have identified them or their authority as law enforcement officers have been consistent. I believe it is possible that their ID was covered by parts of their camel pack or other attire they were wearing at that time.

However, if there was any question of Deputy Gyllenskog and BLM Ranger Finch’s authority, Dennis and Michelle Easley were entirely within their rights to demand that Deputy Gyllenskog and BLM Ranger Finch properly identify themselves as law enforcement officers before they complied with their orders.

It has been alleged that even after Michelle Easley had been arrested and injured with hands handcuffed behind her back, BLM Ranger William Finch continued to taunt her. I believe Ranger Finch was using a law enforcement tactic called escalating. Ranger Finch was trying to stir the emotional pot to evoke a negative response from Dennis or Michelle, or possibly one of the witnesses.

Escalating is used by some in law enforcement when there are citizens or cameras present to witness the unlawful or unethical behavior of a law enforcement officer. Escalation is normally used to evoke a negative verbal comment, or physical response from a citizen to justify the unlawful or unethical behavior of a law enforcement officer, or to justify the continued use of physical force by that officer.

After reading BLM Ranger Finch’s conflicting statements in his Probable Cause Affidavit and his Incident and Investigation Report, it appears that he is struggling with consistencies in remembering his actions, or stating the truth about those actions.

Our advisers on law enforcement issues all agree that first contact with the Easley’s should have begun something like this. Good afternoon folks I am Deputy Gyllenskog with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and this is my partner BLM Ranger Bill Finch. The law requires that all Off Highway Vehicles (OHV) used on public lands must have an OHV sticker and we are here today checking all OHV’s for stickers.

Michelle Easley's Daughter
Michelle and Dennis Easley's Daughter

If there was any question by anyone, about the lawful authority of Deputy Gyllenskog and BLM Ranger Finch, then Deputy Gyllenskog and BLM Ranger Finch were required in the absence of exigent circumstances, to show their ID before proceeding with any attempt to enforce any laws on anyone.

After interviewing the witness’s and reading the officer’s reports, I believe Deputy Gyllenskog and BLM Ranger Finch let their training and professionalism be over taken by ego, temper, fear and bad judgment in this instance.

I believe Deputy Gyllenskog acted without proper authority when he arrested Dennis Easley and charged him with Disorderly Conduct, leaving himself and his department venerable to civil actions.

It is my opinion that Ranger William Finch was acting without proper authority when he arrested Michelle Easley. I have no question in my mind that the force he used in that arrest was excessive and unnecessary and his language was unprofessional and unacceptable, as well as vulgar.

There is argument that when Deputy Gyllenskog and BLM Ranger Finch refused Dennis and Michelle Easley’s repeated requests for them to identify themselves and show their authority as law enforcement officers, their actions ceased to be official and became criminal.

After listening to the people that witnessed this incredible criminal assault describe the events they witnessed that day, I asked every one of them, what was Deputy Gyllenskog doing while Ranger Finch was menacing women and little children by shouting filth, as he was grabbing at his weapon? All of the witnesses I have interviewed stated that Deputy Gyllenskog held on to Dennis Easley’s hand cuffs and just looked down at the ground and shook his head.

I believe Deputy Gyllenskog knew that BLM Ranger Finch’s actions were way out of line and they should have identified themselves when asked. I believe they arrested and charged the Easley’s with these ridiculous trumped up charges in an attempt to protect themselves from their own unprofessional, unethical and criminal actions.

As of press time Dennis and Michelle Easley have both been charged with Disorderly Conduct; ORS 166.025 the defendant did unlawfully and recklessly create the risk public inconvenience, annoyance and alarm, by engaging in violent, tumultuous and threatening behavior or by making unreasonable noise.

Michelle Easley has been charged with two more offences, interfering with a Peace Officer; ORS 162.247 the defendant did unlawfully, and knowingly refuse to obey a lawful order of William Finch, a person known by the defendant to be a Peace Officer.

Resisting Arrest ORS 162.315 the defendant did unlawfully, and intentionally resist William Finch, a person known by the defendant to be a Peace Officer in making a arrest.

Not guilty, followed by the dismissal of a BLM Ranger and administrative sanctions brought against a Jackson County Deputy Sheriff may be in order, and topped with a Civil Rights Lawsuit!

This story has had me taking a hard look at the truth in this case, with both eyes wide open and everything that I have seen and heard makes me believe that law enforcement, the so called good guys in this case, may indeed be the bad guys.

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