GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK — A Santa Clara man said he is outraged after he told officers he was in pain and needed medical help during a traffic stop, but instead ended up in handcuffs Monday night.
Dennis Mitchell said he was hiking with a group of 10 people on Monday and they had just finished a 24-mile hike. The 10 individuals got into one car with only eight seat belts and began driving to another parking lot where their other vehicle was parked 1/4 mile away.
During the drive, Mitchell said he was pulled over by a National Park ranger due to the number of people in the car not wearing seat belts. Mitchell said he didn't dispute the fact that they were breaking the law in that regard, but he said he was furious about being arrested when he exited the car after beginning to cramp.
"At which point, my right arm started to spasm, and so I had to try and get rid of that cramp," Mitchell said. "These cramps are so tight that they actually started to lift me off the seat."
Mitchell said he had informed the officer that his legs were seizing and cramping. Mitchell works as a physician's assistant and he said he knew the best thing to do was stand up and straighten his legs.
I had a real good view of his head being smashed into the car. And I could see how much pain he was in.
–Liisa Frei, passenger
He said he asked the ranger several times if he could exit the car to relieve his cramping limbs.
"He was pale," said Dennis' wife, Lisa Mitchell. "He was sweating. Tears were running down his face."
Lisa Mitchell is a nurse, and she said that she was also concerned about his condition during the traffic stop.
However, when Dennis Mitchell said he began to open the door to stretch his legs, the ranger arrested him.
"He became very belligerent," Dennis Mitchell said. "(He) kind of pulled me out of the car, took me to the front of the car."
Passenger Lisa Frei filmed the incident with her cellphone.
"I had a real good view of his head being smashed into the car," Frei said. "And I could see how much pain he was in."
Frei said that Dennis Mitchell continued to ask the ranger to call an ambulance, but the ranger appeared unresponsive.
Dennis Mitchell received two citations for not having all passengers secured in seat belts, and for failing to comply with officers. He will have to drive back down to the area for a court appearance.
However, the Mitchells are filing formal complaints.
"If this gentleman had a bad day, we mark it up as a bad day," Dennis Mitchell said. "We forgive and move on. But, if he has a record of this, to incite, then he should be removed from the force."
A spokesperson with the National Parks Service said that they hold their rangers to the highest standard. She said the complaint will be thoroughly investigated, and if needed action will be taken. However, the spokesperson would not comment on this particular case.