By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
A California man who had to be subdued with a taser and sedatives after allegedly attacking park rangers and damaging Yellowstone National Park’s Lake Hotel now faces four charges in federal court.
A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for Thursday for Benjamin Bagala, who faces three charges of assaulting U.S. Park Service rangers and causing more than $1,000 in damage to the Lake Hotel.
According to U.S. District Court documents, Park Ranger Matthew Chuvarsky was called to Lake Hotel late Saturday night to respond to reports of an intoxicated guest who was “howling” outside the hotel and had approached a security guard in a “threatening manner.”
The guest, later identified as Bagala, was reportedly “stomping around the hotel.”
An affidavit filed in support of Bagala’s charges by Chuvarsky said when Chuvarsky arrived at the hotel, he saw Bagala and noticed two broken plexiglass panels, similar to those used to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Bagala started walking toward the ranger, the affidavit said, and Chuvarsky noticed he had blood on his hands, arm and face.
The affidavit said the two struggled briefly and when it appeared Bagala was preparing to punch Chuvarsky, the ranger used his taser on Bagala and the man fell to the ground. After a struggle, Bagala was handcuffed.
Because of his injuries and a perceived high level of intoxication, Bagala was moved from a patrol car into an ambulance for transport to a hospital in Livingston, Montana.
While in the ambulance, Bagala removed his seatbelt, began trying to get out of the handcuffs and struggled with one of the park rangers in the ambulance.
The ranger driving the ambulance stopped the vehicle and went to the back to help the other ranger. While he tried to control Bagala, he was kicked twice in the head.
During efforts to administer a sedative to Bagala, he began spitting saliva, blood and mucus on the rangers and a paramedic in the ambulance and spitting into the paramedic’s mouth.
After Bagala was sedated and being taken to the hospital, rangers returned to the Lake Hotel to survey the damage he allegedly caused.
The affidavit said rangers found damage allegedly caused by Bagala worth more than $1,000, including: the two broken plexiglass shields, blood splattered on the floor, walls and ceiling of the hotel lobby, broken plates, a broken door and damaged light fixtures.
If convicted on all charges, Bagala could face up to 34 years in prison, up to eight years for each assault charge and up to 10 years for the damaging of federal property.