Updated: June 30, 2020 10:16 PM
Created: June 30, 2020 05:25 PM
CARLSBAD, N.M. - Recently released videos from a body-camera worn by a National Park Ranger at Carlsbad Caverns National Park reveals the park visitor who he tased, then shot and killed did not provoke the use of force and was unarmed.
Charles “Gage” Lorentz was traveling from his work site in Pecos, Texas on March 21. 2020 intending to head to his family’s home in Southwest Colorado. A report from the Eddy County Sheriff’s Department noted that he detoured at Carlsbad Caverns National Park to meet a friend. The report states National Park Ranger Robert Mitchell stopped him for speeding on a dirt road near the Rattlesnake Springs area of the park.
The lapel video shows Ranger Mitchell ordered Lorentz to spread his feet and move closer to a railing. Lorentz is seen complying with those orders. But when the ranger orders Lorentz to turn around, Lorentz is seen in the video not complying and dancing to nearby music playing from someone’s vehicle. Ranger Mitchell commanded Lorentz to take his hands out of his pockets, and without warning or an announcement that force will be used; Ranger Mitchell deployed his Taser at Lorentz.
The video abruptly ends when the Taser is deployed. Twenty-six seconds of the video is missing, but when the video resumes, the video shows Ranger Mitchell on top of Lorentz. That’s when the ranger shot him twice with his service gun.
Later in the video, Ranger Mitchell is heard explaining what happened during the missing 26 seconds to an Eddy County Deputy. He said, “that's when I shot him with a Taser. It did nothing. I went dry stun, he hit me somewhere right here on the side of my head. The fight was on, he grabbed me around the neck, he tried to push my head into the push bar and I came up and fired one round. I don't know if I got him or not, but I definitely got him on the second one and he crumbled.”
Since the Taser barbs did not penetrate through Lorentz’s jacket, the Taser did not have an effect. Ranger Mitchell essentially escalated the situation, as he described, by stepping toward Lorentz to get closer to him to dry-stun him, meaning using the function of the Taser that requires the device to make contact with the skin of someone to be effective. Three witnesses stated in police reports that when Ranger Mitchell lunged in toward Lorentz, Lorentz fought back.
The lapel video also shows that after three minutes passes, Ranger Mitchell put a motionless Lorentz in handcuffs and declared him, “under arrest.” Eight minutes after the shooting, Ranger Mitchell removed his first aid kit from his vehicle and four minutes after that, he finally rendered aid to Lorentz.
A FAMILY WITH NO ANSWERS
“That officer needlessly stole my son’s life,” said Travis Lorentz, Gage’s father, during an interview with KOB 4 Investigates just outside Grand Junction, Colorado
Travis Lorentz said it took days to get information from New Mexico authorities and to this day, he said nobody from the National Park Service has reached out to him.
“It bothers me. It makes me think that they are trying to cover something up,” said Travis Lorentz.
The days after Gage Lorentz’s death, his mother Kim Beck worked the phones trying to piece together what happened. She said nobody would even reveal the name of the park ranger who shot and killed her son.
“I think not having any answers has been difficult on my family,” Beck said.
The Eddy County Sheriff’s Department investigated Gage Lorentz death and turned over its findings to Dianna Luce, the 5th Judicial District Attorney. She is concerned about the missing 26 seconds of missing lapel video. She said she does not want to rule if Ranger Mitchell’s shoot was justified or not until she has all of the materials and evidence, which includes the missing video.
“We've now been informed that perhaps that there was a miscommunication or there is some additional material that they can now recover,” District Attorney Luce said. “We think that is really important to know that we have everything that was recorded.”
The National Park Service, through an email, and District Attorney Luce both confirmed the U.S. Attorney’s Office is also investigating. Their role, according to DA Luce, is to determine if Lorentz’s constitutional rights were violated when Ranger Mitchell shot and killed him.
Police reports state Lorentz was unarmed when he was killed. A toxicol6ogy report showed he had no alcohol or drugs in his system. An autopsy report by the New Mexico Office of the Medical Examiner revealed the first bullet went into his thigh, missing all major arteritis. It could have been survivable. But the second shot, according to the report, went through his heart. It was the fatal blow.
Shannon Kennedy, a civil rights attorney in Albuquerque, represents Gage Lorentz’s family and plans on filing a lawsuit against the United States Interior Department, National Park Service.
“Let's start with the fact that this man takes a Taser and shoots Gage with no provocation from Gage whatsoever,” Kennedy said. “There is no communication, there is no de-escalation. That park ranger is insane. He's out of his mind. What is he arresting him for? Driving too fast down a country road? And he takes his life over that? It's a citation. It's a warning. It's not a death sentence.”
“This world is a far less better place without him in it,” Travis Lorentz said.
Gage Lorentz’s family continues to push for answers and seek justice.
A spokesperson with the National Park Service stated Ranger Mitchell is currently on administrative assignment pending an internal investigation.
Copyright 2020 - KOB-TV LLC, A Hubbard Broadcasting Company