A combat-wounded Marine has filed a damage claim against the Sequoia National Park after he says he was handcuffed and injured by a park ranger in a dispute over a handicap parking space.
The Marine, Dominic Esquibel of San Diego, and his Fresno attorney Nicholas "Butch" Wagner claim he was assaulted, battered and placed under false arrest causing personal injury and emotional distress. Esquibel is seeking in excess of $750,000.
A Sequoia National Park spokeswoman declined to comment Friday, saying the park service does not discuss tort claims.
The incident happened on Dec. 22, 2012 when Esquibel and his family were visiting the park. As they entered the gate, a park employee asked him to wait at the entrance until traffic thinned out. Esquibel used a handicapped park pass allowing him to enter for free.
After entering, Esquibel parked in a handicap space so he could use the restroom. He placed his handicap placard on his rear view mirror and began walking from his vehicle when he was stopped by the park employee.
The complaint says the employee told him he couldn't park in that space because he did not appear to be handicapped. Esquibel's attorney wrote in the complaint that Esquibel sustained a devastating injury to his right foot in 2011 when he stepped on a bomb while on patrol in Afghanistan.
As a result, he wears an exoskeleton on his right leg. His right elbow and his hearing were also damaged.
The park employee called a park ranger, who arrived a short time later and began questioning Esquibel. The complaint says the ranger demanded that Esquibel show him a "handicapped driver's license" but Esquibel said he did not have or need one to drive his vehicle. He offered to show the ranger the paperwork for the handicap placard, but the ranger was unwilling to listen.
The complaint says the ranger arrested Esquibel for failing to follow a lawful order. Esquibel says his war-related injuries were made worse by the ranger's forceful arrest.
"At no time did claimant break any law," the complaint states. "Nonetheless, he was placed under false arrest and falsely imprisoned. The rangers repeatedly ignored claimant's pleas to verify his disability and caused claimant physical pain by kicking his injured foot and torquing his damaged elbow."