ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- The family of a man who was shot and killed by a parker ranger at Carlsbad Caverns National Park is suing the federal government and the park ranger.
Gage Lorentz, a Colorado native, was driving through New Mexico in March when Park Ranger Robert John Mitchell stopped him for speeding.
Following a lengthy interaction and scuffle, Mitchell shot Lorentz, who was unarmed.
Body camera video shows that it took Mitchell eight minutes to remove the first aid kit from his truck, and 12 minutes before he rendered aid.
Shannon Kennedy and Spencer Park, who represent Lorentz's family, believe the federal government and Mitchell should be held responsible.
'This is a case where clearly we have lapel camera video, proving that the ranger shot first was not thinking,' Kennedy said. 'And that has to stop. And it's got to stop with this case.'
'The way the system is right now, we're all in danger,' Park said. 'This happened at a national park, a place you go to take your family. There needs to be a change. And we are very hopeful that throughout this whole thing, that this can stop this from happening to anyone else.'
The lawsuit claims Mitchell violated Lorentz's constitutional rights by using excessive force and failing to render aid, wasting critical time that could have saved Lorentz's life.
The lawsuit also claims Mitchell cannot hide behind qualified immunity, meaning Lorentz's family can sue him personally, even though he is a law enforcement officer.
'Qualified immunity basically says that police officers cannot be held accountable unless they violate a law that existed at the time, that they violated the constitutional rights of the person whose life they took,' Kennedy said. 'Now, at the time that Ranger Mitchell unconstitutionally took the life of Gage, it was unconstitutional to tase someone who was passively resisting, who had not committed any violent crimes, who posed no threat of violence to anyone. Ranger Mitchell escalated the violence by unholstering his gun unnecessarily.'
Earlier this year, Eddy County District Attorney Diana Luce ruled that Mitchell would not be criminally charged.
For Gage's family, this lawsuit is their last hope for justice.
'More than anything, we want to see change so that no other family has to go through this but also somebody needs to be held accountable because our son was not in the wrong and his rights were completely violated,' said Lorentz's mother, Kim Beck.
In response to the lawsuit, the National Park Service released the following statement:
'The loss of life is always tragic, and our condolences remain with Mr. Lorentz's family. The officer approached Mr. Lorentz after witnessing him driving at a high rate of speed veering off the road striking and knocking over a roadside sign. Based on evidence that included body worn camera footage and statements from several witnesses, investigators determined that Mr. Lorentz fought with the officer and attempted to take the officer's firearm. Three separate federal and local investigations all concluded that the officer's actions were reasonable in the circumstance.'
The State of New Mexico addresses this and other details of the incident in their completed investigation. Their findings/news release can be found here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/zi0k2ck1sebfyka/Carlsbad%20Caverns%20OIS.MOV?dl=0