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 fatally shot during a traffic stop did not provoke the use of force and was unarmed, reports KOB4.
Charles “Gage” Lorentz was traveling from his workplace in Pecos, Texas on March 21. 2020 intending to head to his family’s home in Southwest Colorado when he was pulled over for speeding on a dirt road near the Rattlesnake Springs area of the park, according to a report from the Eddy County Sheriff’s Department.
The lapel video shows National Park Ranger Robert Mitchell ordering 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 while smiling 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, he deployed his Taser at Lorentz.
The video abruptly cuts off for twenty-six seconds when the Taser is deployed.
When the video resumes, Ranger Mitchell is on top of Lorentz. That’s when the ranger shot Lorentz twice with his service gun.
“Since the Taser barbs did not penetrate through Lorentz’s jacket, the Taser did not have an effect,” KOB4 reports. “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,’” according to the station. “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.”
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.”
“That officer needlessly stole my son’s life,” said Travis Lorentz, Gage’s father, during an interview with KOB 4 Investigates.
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.
“I think not having any answers has been difficult on my family,” said Kim Beck, Gage’s mother.
The National Park Service and Dianna Luce, the 5th Judicial District Attorney, confirmed the shooting remained under investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which is trying to determine whether Lorentz’s civil rights were violated.
Lorentz’s family plans to file a lawsuit against the United States Interior Department and National Park Service, saying the ranger acted without provocation.
“Let’s start with the fact that this man takes a Taser and shoots Gage with no provocation from Gage whatsoever,” said attorney Shannon Kennedy. “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.”