Man Jailed In Assault On Ranger, Trooper
A Hagerstown, Md., man was arrested over the weekend after being barricaded inside the beach house at Cowans Gap State Park and then allegedly assaulting a park ranger as well as a Pennsylvania State Police trooper.
Jason Stephen Crist, 334 Central Avenue, Hagerstown, Md., was arraigned before Magisterial District Judge Devin Horne Sunday following the 3:47 p.m. incident that began in the swimming area and ended just outside the beach house in a struggle with officers and park patrons.
Crist is charged with one count each of aggravated assault, resisting arrest or other law enforcement, public drunkenness and violations of rules on commonwealth property. Judge Horne remanded Crist to the Franklin County Prison in lieu of $75,000. He has since posted bail and is scheduled to appear Monday in Fulton County Central Court for a preliminary hearing.
An affidavit of probable cause filed by arresting officer park ranger James Sleighter maintains Crist and a juvenile female were observed swimming 20 yards beyond the designated swimming area off the beach on two occasions. Hesitant to return to the shore, Sleighter stated, Crist, 42, had a strong odor of alcoholic beverage and was slurring his speech.
While urging the duo to walk to the beach house to discuss the swimming violation, the park ranger said in charging documents, Crist repeatedly “clenched his fists and swung his arms together” during their conversation. Needing proper identification that was among their personal effects on the beach, Crist volunteered to retrieve his identification and promised not to run away, the affidavit said.
“I told Crist due to him being visibly intoxicated, I was not going to permit him to go back to the beach. Crist at that point stood up and came toward me,” said ranger Sleighter in the affidavit. “I told him to back up and sit down. Crist told me that the deal was up, and he should have ‘just took off in the first place and that I would not win.’ Crist then started to swing his arms together and to clench his fists.”
Sleighter alleged the Maryland man continued to make advances toward him, which prompted him to pepper spray him twice. Seeing that Crist was becoming more “agitated,” the ranger retreated from the building and was provided backup from fellow park rangers, the park manager and state police. The group was unsuccessful in attempts to free the young girl from the beach house, while keeping Crist inside and subdued.
Even after hearing threats of being tasered, it is alleged Crist still lunged at the door to make a quick exit.
“Crist attempted to throw a closed fist punch to the head of Trooper Gary Hibner. The trooper attempted to deploy his taser. However, it had no effect on Crist,” the park ranger stated. “We then opened the door, and Crist attempted to break free from us. We were able to take Crist to the ground, where he continued to resist and pulled his hands under his body. I could also see Crist’s right hand within six inches of Trooper Hibner’s duty sidearm, and Crist attempted to move his hand in that direction.”
Sleighter maintained park visitors also attempted to assist officers during their struggle with Crist, who was checked on the scene by medics. The emergency medical officials also treated the trooper and ranger for the bleeding abrasions they suffered to their arms during the scuffle.