Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Park Rangers Debunk Tourist Robbery Story

Posted By on Tue, Nov 14, 2017 at 10:38 AM

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The account of five Spanish tourists claiming to have been robbed in Redwood National Park is untrue, rangers established this week. The tourists previously said they returned to their vehicles from a hike at Lady Bird Johnson Grove on the afternoon of Friday, Nov. 3, to be confronted by several armed men who came out from the bushes, fired three shots into the air and ordered them to lie on the ground. The park service determined this wasn't true.

"It didn't make any sense," said Greg Morse, chief of Visitor Protection for Redwood National and State Parks. "There were a couple of hundred people at LBJ [Lady Bird Johnson Grove] that day, we were doing tours and we didn't hear any shots."

Rangers also searched the area for shell casings and found none. An interview with the landowner whose cannabis farm on Bald Hills Road was robbed on the same day revealed that the tourists were, in fact, at that site and had lied about their location because they did not want to be associated with the cannabis activity. Morse says they were able to confirm this with the tourists through a third party, although they were reluctant to talk.

Morse says there was a miscommunication between his agency and the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office, which sent out the original press release the Monday following the robbery. Calls and emails to the sheriff's office this morning were not returned.

In her press release, Candace Tinkler, spokesperson for Redwood National and State Parks, underscored that "visitors should not be concerned about exploring the wonders of their public lands."

From Redwood National and State Parks:

Park law enforcement rangers have determined the report from tourists of being robbed at gunpoint near the Lady Bird Johnson (LBJ) trailhead of Redwood National and State Parks on Nov. 3 was not true. No armed robbery took place within the parks and visitors should not be concerned about exploring the wonders of their public lands.

Upon notification of robbery, park law enforcement rangers immediately began investigating the area along Bald Hills Road where the incident allegedly took place, and began comparing its time frame with similar incidents reported outside park boundaries. While the victims claimed that multiple shots were fired from an assault-style rifle, no shell casings were found on the ground. In addition, other National Park Service employees in the area at the same time as the alleged robbery heard no shots fired.

Rangers then conducted multiple witness interviews, including the land owner of the first robbery that took place off Bald Hills Road on private land. The rangers were then able, through a third party, to contact the five tourists. They admitted that they fabricated the park robbery story because they were concerned about being associated with activities at a local marijuana operation.

Park law enforcement rangers are continuing their investigation into the matter and are collaborating with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office.

The reduced crowds during fall and winter months, combined with the enhanced beauty of rain-washed forests make this a very enjoyable time of year for scenic drives and trail strolls. However, for safety when traveling and parking in remote areas it is always prudent to stow your valuables, electronics and accessories well out of sight—or better yet, bring them with you. Lock and alarm your vehicle, and be aware of your surroundings.

Redwood National and State Parks law enforcement officers encourage anyone with information regarding the Bald Hills Road robberies or any suspected crime within the parks to call the park crime tip line at: (707) 465-7353.

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Linda Stansberry

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Linda Stansberry is a staff writer of the North Coast Journal.

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