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Interference/Resisting a Government Employee

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

National Park News

On July 25th, ranger April Lee responded to a report of "a noncompliant vulgar female” who was refusing to restrain her dog and had improperly parked her motor vehicle at Clingman's Dome parking lot. Lee located the vehicle at the Newfound Gap parking lot, and found the operator – Robin Owen, 42, of Sweetwater, Tennessee – walking around the area. Lee observed that Owen appeared impaired, as she was having trouble maintaining her balance, her appearance was disheveled, and she had a vacant stare. Lee made several verbal attempts to gain Owen's attention and compliance, placing herself in front of Owen's path of travel, but Owen refused to acknowledge or comply with Lee's orders. Owen stepped up onto a stone wall, which has a drop-off of over 20 feet onto a cement landing, then faced away from Lee and looked down toward the drop-off. Lee ordered Owen to get down off the wall, and Owen replied, "Which way?" Fearing that Owen was contemplating jumping, Lee grabbed Owen by her clothing and pulled her down from the wall. Owen began to struggle with Lee, attempting to pull away and telling Lee to leave her alone. Lee had applied a handcuff to one of Owen's wrists when Owen forcibly pulled away, yelled "don't touch me," and turned to face Lee. Lee sprayed one shot of OC pepper spray in Owen's face. This distraction allowed Lee to contain Owen, and, with the assistance of a bystander, cuff Owen's free hand and make the arrest. Although Owen was feeling the effects of the pepper spray, she still remained uncooperative, refusing to stand or walk to the fresh water source. Owen was carried to Lee's vehicle, where decontamination was begun, an EMS assessment conducted, and treatment rendered. Lee sustained no injuries during the incident. Owen was charged with three 36 CFR violations – interference/resisting a government employee in the performance of official duties, unlawful possession of a controlled substance (marijuana), and dog off leash.  Because of a concern for her competency,  the judge agreed to a plea agreement allowing Owen plead to one count of dog off leash, with the other charges dropped.


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