A disabled U.S. Marines veteran has received a $250,000 settlement from the U.S. government after a national park park ranger allegedly used excessive force to arrest him over the use of a handicapped parking space.
Dominic Esquibel of San Diego sued the Department of Interior and the National Park Service, among others, for assault, false arrest and false imprisonment over the 2012 incident at Sequoia National Park east of Fresno, California. The civil rights case was scheduled to go to trial last week in U.S. District Court but was recently settled.
Esquibel, who received the Navy Cross for heroism during Operation Iraqi Freedom, was satisfied with the settlement, said his Fresno attorney, Nicholas “Butch” Wagner.
“He feels vindicated,” Wagner said. “And he is glad this is over.”
Wagner said Esquibel, who sustained major injuries to his right leg and arm during the war, did not want the arrest on his record and was determined to clear his name. Wagner said Esquibel was also injured during the arrest by the park ranger and it may have contributed additional damage to his war-related injuries.
“He was having trouble sleeping and his condition was getting worse,” Wagner said.
Esquibel’s troubles began Dec. 22, 2012, when he and his family were visiting Sequoia National Park. As they entered the gate, a park employee (not named in court papers) asked him to wait at the entrance until traffic thinned out.
Esquibel parked in a nearby handicap space so he could use the restroom while the line of traffic went down. He placed his handicap placard on his rear-view mirror and began walking from his vehicle when the park employee at the entrance booth yelled at him: “You can’t park there.”
When he said he was disabled, the park employee replied: “I can see that you’re not,” the lawsuit states. The park employee called a park ranger, who arrived a short time later and began questioning Esquibel.
Court records show that the park employee later admitted to trying to stop Esquibel because she wanted to save the parking space for a co-worker who was coming to replace her at the end of her shift.
The ranger demanded that Esquibel show him a handicapped driver’s license. Esquibel told the ranger he did not have or need one to drive his vehicle because he did not have any adaptive equipment. He offered to show the ranger the paperwork for the handicap placard, but the ranger was unwilling to listen, the lawsuit says. The ranger forcibly arrested Esquibel for failing to follow a lawful order, the lawsuit says.
The charges were dropped in 2014.
© 2019 The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.)
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