Beach-goers critical of USFS handling of fight

By Kathryn Reed

U.S. Forest Service officials are defending their approach to the July 4 melee at Ski Beach.

A fight broke out between two guys that ended with five law enforcement agencies being called to the South Shore beach, three people receiving citations for fighting, and one person going to the hospital.

“A subject attempted to assault a Forest Service officer and the K9 was used to apprehend him. The dog is fully trained and certified in patrol, narcotics detection and handler protection. Other Forest Service law enforcement officers helped restrain the subject. At this point, the officers were surrounded and the crowd was taunting them and yelling profanities,” Forest Service spokeswoman Cheva Heck told Lake Tahoe News.

U.S. Forest Service officers on July 4 hold down a man who was in a fight. Photo/Julie Gardner

U.S. Forest Service officers on July 4 hold down a man who was in a fight. Photo/Julie Gardner

But that is not what eyewitnesses said happened.

Julie Gardner of South Lake Tahoe was about a foot away on the sand from where a fight broke out between two guys. What started as an argument escalated into one guy shoving another guy who was wearing a full knee brace. The latter fell on his back onto a bike.

Gardner told Lake Tahoe News that two guys were assaulting the man with a brace when a friend of the solo guy jumped in to break up the fight.

“The U.S. Forest Service came over and released the dog. The dog immediately ran up and attacked him,” Gardner said of the friend of the man with the brace.

She did not hear the Forest Service give any warning that the dog was going to be deployed.

Many people who commented on LTN‘s first story about this fight were critical of the USFS, saying many of the same things that Gardner said.

The guy went down, officers cuffed him, but the dog didn’t let go. According to Gardner, the dog kept the hold for at least a minute as officers tried to get him to release. And then the dog allegedly bit the handler.

He was taken to Barton Memorial Hospital that night with several non-life threatening puncture wounds, according to Gardner.

Heck did not answer these questions:

• What is the policy regarding deploying a K9?

• How does the dog know whom to go after?

• When the crowd told officers they had the wrong guys, why didn’t they go after the two who ran?

• Allegedly the officers could not get the dog off the guy. What happened there?

• USFS officers are accused of shoving people to the ground. Any comment?

“This is a pending law enforcement matter, and no further details are available,” Heck said.

Gardner described the scene as chaotic, with people yelling at each other and law enforcement.

Forest Service officials say nearly 70 people were involved and estimate more than 1,000 people were on this beach that is just to the north of Baldwin Beach. Assisting the Forest Service were officers from South Lake Tahoe Police Department, El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office, California Highway Patrol, California State Park police and CalFire.

Gardner said she has never seen such ineptitude from law enforcement.

“It was a completely malicious, unwarranted attack by the dog and officers,” Gardner said.

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Comments (19)
  1. ??? says - Posted: July 7, 2013

    Where’s all the cell phone videos? You know there out there.

  2. whattheheck says - Posted: July 7, 2013

    Has anyone bothered to check the quantities of liquid
    courage in the bloodstreams of the trouble makers?

  3. ihatedrunks says - Posted: July 7, 2013

    if ya’ll weren’t drinkin n fightin ya’ll woulda had a great time. just sayin… all you friends of friends were just standing around yellin and eggin the situation on. i give kudos to the USFS as no one else was out there doin s—…

  4. cosa pescado says - Posted: July 7, 2013

    Eyewitness testimony is not reliable at all.
    So be careful in the conclusions you drawn from it.

  5. Marc says - Posted: July 7, 2013

    Is one of the forest service leo’s involved ken marcus? He has been causing a lot of problems on the west slope.

  6. Eye witness says - Posted: July 7, 2013

    Hey ihatedrunks did you know that the man that tried to break it up wasn’t intoxicated.. Check your facts before you open your mouth idiot

  7. Frank Aquilina says - Posted: July 7, 2013

    I’m pretty certain the innocent bystander isn’t so innocent. Congratulations to all the drunkards. Another law will be made and we can have you to thank. You idiots are right in there with the ones who bring there vicious dogs( not pits) just ones that are known not to play well with others. Just like idiots that shouldn’t drink.

  8. Louis says - Posted: July 7, 2013

    I thought the sheriff banned the USFS from acting as police in the county? Sheriff D’Agostini please help us!

  9. scadmin says - Posted: July 7, 2013

    The Sheriff’s ban goes into effect 7/22/13.

  10. Southtahoe says - Posted: July 7, 2013

    So if he attempted to assault a deputy, can someone at USFS explain why he was cited for “engaging in fighting”. I’m certain attempting assault on officer carries a different charge/citation. Just a thought.

  11. Steve says - Posted: July 7, 2013

    Prediction: In its confusion, the Forest Service will drop all charges against those cited. And authorities will impose a 4th of July alcohol ban on Ski Beach similar to Nevada Beach, Zephyr Cove, the Truckee River between Tahoe City/River Ranch, and the American River in Sacramento.

    Nobody wants to risk injury or deal with drunken hassles like this.

  12. John A says - Posted: July 8, 2013

    Highway Patrol and Calfire assisted too ? What the ? Why can’t the Sheriff’s dept and SLT Police handle these simple situations alone ? Are we gonna see TRPA law enforcement at the lake soon too ?

  13. Court says - Posted: July 8, 2013

    Frank Aquilina, when you say “You idiots are right in there with the ones who bring there vicious dogs( not pits) just ones that are known not to play well with others.” I can only assume you’re talking about the Forest Service in this situation.
    Sounds like another example of why FS LEOs shouldn’t be allowed to enforce state and county laws.

  14. Adam says - Posted: July 8, 2013

    my photo…. and do have video as well

  15. nature bats last says - Posted: July 8, 2013

    mixing alcohol, hot weather, dogs on the beach, 1000 people all crammed together trying to have their own brand of “fun” and no one taking responsability for their actions, what does one expect. Have a alcohol ban for the holiday and maybe that will solve the problem.

  16. nature bats last says - Posted: July 8, 2013

    oh ya, those beaches are Forest Service land (public lands) which is why the Forest Service LEO’s were there doing the law enforcement. Its not state or county land, its Public Lands administered by the USDA Forest Service. I do not envy those LEO’s their job of dealing with drunk a–holes

  17. Ernie Claudio says - Posted: July 8, 2013

    Great reporting Kae.
    There are always two sides to every story.
    Thanks to your reporting, new policies should be in place soon at the U.S. Forest Service.

  18. Reader says - Posted: July 10, 2013

    Seriously, you call this subjective report Journalism?

  19. Mandela Lives says - Posted: July 11, 2013

    Umm… How long was the vicious dog attack? A lot of people are making it sound like this just went on and on, yet the Dog pictured appears to be watching his Handler quite attentively, and the Handler seems to be paying attention to the crowd, while there appears to be a lot of movement still happening. Neither of which seem to be maliciously molesting the young fellow. Word of advice to Ms. Gardner. Do not make declarative statements based on your lack of experience. If the fight started 1 foot away from you, as you say, you would not able to focus at all on the actions of the LEO’s(who are somewhere else, because, after all, where is a cop when you need one), let alone able to see more than bursts of speed and color as three people (and later more)struggled right on top of you. Unless you are being groomed and trained. Then the question becomes, “By whom?” Ah, yes, and speaking of inept? Welcome to the witness stand, place your right hand on the bible and explain to the Jury how come you let your friend in the leg brace be pushed around by the aggressor? After all, you WERE 1foot away? If he is NOT your friend, and you were 1foot away, that makes you part of the fight, no? Declarative Statements…