Dominic Esquibel, a disabled US Marine veteran, alleged that a national park ranger used excessive force when he was arrested for parking in a handicapped space. He sued the National Park Service and the Department of Interior, along with other organizations, over the incident, including for assault, false arrest, and false imprisonment.
Esquibel, who hails from San Diego, is a Navy Cross recipient for his actions during Operation Iraqi Freedom. During the war, he suffered significant injuries to his right leg and arm.
When he went to a national park in California on December 22, 2012, a park employee asked Esquibel to wait at the park’s entrance for traffic to thin out. He drove to a nearby handicapped parking space so that he could head to the restroom while he waited, placing his handicap placard on the rearview mirror of his vehicle.
As Esquibel began to walk away from his vehicle, the park employee yelled, “You can’t park there.”
When Esquibel told the worker that he was disabled, the employee said, according to a report by Task & Purpose, “I can see that you’re not.”
The employee contacted a park ranger who, upon arriving at the scene of the incident, began questioning Esquibel.
The park ranger demanded that the Marine veteran show him a handicapped driver’s license. Esquibel said that he did not have one as his vehicle had no adaptive equipment – making the specialized license unnecessary – though did offer to provide his handicap placard paperwork.
According to the lawsuit, the park ranger then forcibly arrested Esquibel for failing to follow a lawful order. The suit also states that Esquibel was injured during the arrest and that the ranger’s actions may have done additional damage to his war-related injury to his leg which could have caused him to lose it.
Esquibel worked to clear his name and filed a lawsuit. The civil rights case was initially set to go to trial last week, though was ultimately settled.
The disabled veteran is set to receive $250,000 in compensation for the incident. In 2014, the charges against Esquibel were dropped.
“[Esquibel] feels vindicated,” said Nicholas “Butch” Wagner, Esquibel’s attorney. “And he is glad this is over.”
The park employee, according to court records, later admitted that she tried to stop Esquibel because she wanted to save that parking space for another employee who was arriving to replace her at the end of her shift.