I-Team: Photo of drunk on-duty park ranger raises questions about special treament

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A bystander snapped a photo of an on-duty park ranger passed out in his patrol car with a beer in his lap.

A passing trucker caught a California State Park ranger, an armed officer on patrol, passed out with a beer between his legs. The ABC7 News I-Team has been digging into the story behind the photo and whether the ranger received special treatment from his law enforcement colleagues.

August 15 was just another work day for trucker Jack Hurst. He was headed down Humboldt County's Route 254, Avenue of the Giants, at around 3 p.m. when he spotted a California State Parks pickup truck with its lights on, engine running, still in gear, with a ranger passed out at the wheel.

"I yelled out, 'Sir, sir!' No response," Hurst said.

Hurst said he was worried the ranger may have had a medical episode. He tried to wake him by pushing up and down on the pickup's bumper, banging on the fender, but it didn't work.

"And I grabbed his arm and shook him and his head was just bobbing," Hurst said. "No response. I looked in there and I saw alcohol between his legs."

A Keystone Light beer, Hurst said. He called 911.

"Yeah, hey, I'm on the old highway by Miranda, and there's a state parks guy here and I can't wake the guy up," Hurst told police when he called.

Hurst then snapped a photo with his iPhone. He said he snapped the photo because no one believed him.

"The CHP wanted the pictures because they couldn't believe what I was saying, it was just hard to comprehend, I would say," he said.

Before the California Highway Patrol could arrive, the ranger, 33-year-old Tyson Young, drove away. When officers caught up to him, they reported he was swerving over the center line. The commander of the CHP Garberville area said it was a difficult case for his officers.

"Normally it's an impaired driver who is a citizen and we hope that they're normally not armed, but now we have a park ranger who is actually on duty and in uniform as a suspected DUI driver," CHP Lt. Cmdr. Brett Fabbri said.

Fabbri would not give details on the arrest, but the misdemeanor complaint filed by prosecutors charged Young with driving under the influence with a blood alcohol of level of .24, three times the legal limit, and resisting arrest.

The CHP did not book him into the Humboldt County Jail, they released Young to his supervisor.

"And we have a cite and release policy, or our department does, we have one in our area office for as long as you meet certain criteria, you can be cited and released, said Garberville CHP Lt. Cmdr. Brett Fabbri.

ABC7 News asked Humboldt District Attorney Paul Gallegos if anyone else in that position would have gotten the same treatment.

"It's a fair question, I think it's fair for you to conclude that you probably would not have," Gallegos said.

Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos confirmed that it is the normal procedure to book a DUI suspect into jail to let them sober up. Data obtained by the I-Team under the Freedom of Information Act shows that so far this year, the Garberville Area CHP arrested 234 DUI drivers and just five, including Tyson Young, were cited and released. Fabbri could not say whether those other four were also government employees or their friends and family.

"We should aspire to treat everyone similarly, everyone should be entitled to the same protections and consequences associated with the law," Gallegos said.

When Kym Kemp, a reporter for Lost Coast Outpost, got a tip just after Young's arrest, she had a hard time verifying it because he was not booked into jail. His name did not appear on the daily list of arrests that's published on the news website.

"Anyone who gets arrested, I'm talking about people who've run for senator or local Congress people, they all show up when they get arrested for DUIs and he did not," Kym Kemp said.

Tyson Young did not appear in court this week when his lawyer Larry Killoran entered a guilty plea to the DUI for him. The judge dropped the resisting charge, fined Young about $2,000, sentenced him to a week in county jail and then
lowered it to one day because he went to rehab for a month.

Young surrendered at the jail Wednesday morning and got out Thursday. Killoran said Young would not be interviewed and after first agreeing to an interview himself, he changed his mind.

"It's a private matter that's become public," Killoran said. "He's admitted wrongdoing and he's taking steps to further his life and he's putting one step in front of the other."

Tyson young is out on paid leave, while the internal affairs investigation wraps up. As part of his sentence, he will also have to participate in a first time alcohol offender's program for nine months because of the high level of alcohol in his system.
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